On Saturday, Nov. 10, the Long Beach shoreline filled with hundreds of walkers proudly displaying the many awareness “colors of cancer.” Wearing a specific color is a simple way to spread awareness and send a message of solidarity without having to say a word. It also has been a fun tradition amongst Team Spirit Long Beach walkers since the event’s inception nearly 20 years ago.

Many walked in honor of a loved one who lost their battle with cancer or is still battling. Survivors triumphantly walked alongside family and friends. But all walked to raise funds for cancer support programs at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute at Long Beach Medical Center.

“Team Spirit Long Beach is instrumental in sustaining and initiating new crucial psychosocial cancer support programs at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute,” says Mariusz Wirga, M.D., medical director, psychosocial oncology, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “When someone has cancer, it’s important to treat the ‘whole person,’ and our psychosocial support programs use an integrated approach to ensure that we care for the mind, body and spirit of each patient.”

The MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute offers a range of programs, classes and support groups to help guide patients and their families through the cancer journey – from writing and creative workshops to cancer specific support groups.

“Thanks to the ongoing support of our community over the years, we are able to provide support programs to all cancer patients and their families, regardless of their ability to pay or where they receive cancer treatment,” says Dr. Wirga. “This is critical, since these services are not reimbursed by any health insurance.”

Many of the support programs offered at the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute can’t be found anywhere else in the community, such as the Women Guiding Women: Cancer Support & Education Program, which is one of only two peer-mentor programs of its kind in the nation for women with breast and gynecologic cancers.

Additionally, Beat the Odds led by Dr. Wirga is a unique program that helps cancer survivors, and their loved ones focus on mind, body medicine skills and techniques to find wonder and joy in their lives despite a cancer diagnosis.

“Each year, because of philanthropic support, our MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute is able to create new programs that meet the growing needs of our patients,” says Ike Mmeje, Chief Operating Officer, Long Beach Medical Center. “In the last year, we launched a young survivor’s support group and early next year we will start a Young Survivors Beat the Odds Program.

Philanthropic support is crucial to maintaining these critical programs. To date, Team Spirit Long Beach has raised more than $120,657, just shy of the event goal of $125,000.