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Maurer Foundation caps off month of fundraising for breast cancer education

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Throughout October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — Oceanside resident Susan Samaroo and her team at the Maurer Foundation have been working to fund their breast cancer education programs, which they said they believe save lives.

Samaroo is the executive director of the Melville-based Maurer Foundation, which brings lessons about breast cancer prevention to schools, colleges and offices year-round. The organization’s programs focus primarily on the importance of self-exams and how to conduct them properly on a regular basis. The program takes place each year in health classes at Oceanside, Long Beach and Rockville Centre high schools, as well as many other high schools across Long Island.

“We know early detection is key to saving lives,” Samaroo said. “By instilling those good habits at a young age, it is our hope that down the road it can end up saving your life.”

Typically, a Maurer Foundation representative visits a health classroom or office conference room and gives presentations. Students get hands-on learning with silicone breasts that allow students to feel what a lump in the breast might feel like.

Maurer Foundation programs, however, have been fully remote since April. Under Samaroo’s leadership, the team quickly created two distance-learning programs when the coronavirus hit in early spring.

“Like everybody else, we had to figure out how to keep our mission and very important awareness and education in the community alive,” Samaroo said. “We pivoted like everyone else, and we went live without distance-learning programs.”

First is a live webinar, similar to a regular presentation, but through a video-conferencing platform, and the second is a presentation that students can view at their pace on their own. These programs reached nearly 7,500 students from April 1 through the end of last school year.

As the foundation approached Breast Cancer Awareness Month, members knew that their fundraising efforts would also have to adapt to a remote format. All Maurer Foundation programs are free to school districts and other entities, so they need outside donations to keep them running.

October is normally the foundation’s biggest month for fundraising, with its Pink Diamond Gala to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which raises a substantial amount of the foundation’s budget, and other events nearly every day throughout the month on Long Island. “It’s not easy to replace an event like that and raise that amount of money in our current environment,” Samaroo said.

But they still did what they could — from Oct. 11 to 25, the Maurer Foundation raised more than $8,000 with its inaugural Pink Ribbon Run/Walk, a virtual event that encouraged people to engage in some type of physical activity to raise money for the cause. Nearly 120 people took part.

Also, Dan’s Dog Walking and Pet Sitting, a Port Washington-based company, hosted its seventh annual Paws for a Cause fundraiser, which raised more than $6,000 for the Maurer Foundation. And Huntington Honda donated about $5,000 by donating $10 for every person who came in for a test drive in October.

“We’ve been trying to be creative and really stay afloat during this difficult time,” Samaroo said. “Our supporters have been incredible and stood by our side. Without them, we wouldn’t be able to continue what we’re doing.”