Team Spirit Long Beach 2020Fear, anxiety, and worry are all feelings someone might experience after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The team at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center knows that cancer is much more than a physical disease, so they offer a comprehensive array of supportive programs. For the past 20 years, Team Spirit Long Beach Cancer 5K has helped fund these programs for patients with all types of cancer, but 2020 threatened this annual event from occurring.

“When everything began closing, we needed to evaluate what this year’s Team Spirit Long Beach looked like,” says Mariusz Wirga, M.D., medical director, psychosocial oncology, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “Team Spirit Long Beach is all about our community and relationships so we didn’t want to lose that aspect of the event by just having a ‘virtual’ walk. At the time of physical distancing, we wanted more social connectedness.”

To recreate that feeling of community, Dr. Wirga decided to broadcast this year’s 5K over Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram, and invited patients, colleagues, and family members to participate. During the live event, guest speakers from around the globe discussed the importance of psychosocial support for cancer patients, gave testimonies, and walked together. Participants were in New York, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada, and even Poland.

“I’m grateful to everyone that participated in this year’s event,” says Dr. Wirga. “Our incredible community helped us surpass our goal of raising more than $120,000 (net) - $30,000 more than last year! This will go a long way in supporting our patients with cancer, a very vulnerable population, especially during a global pandemic.”

Through the funds raised over the last two decades, the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute has added a range of support services for cancer patients regardless of where they are receiving treatment, including a mind-body oncology coach, healing through creativity classes, writing workshops, and more. A majority of these services and programs aren’t covered by insurance and wouldn’t be possible without the funds raised at Team Spirit Long Beach.