By Gretchen Althoff Snyder

Over 400 people gathered at Rye Town Park on September 17th to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Soul Ryeders. The weather was picture-perfect as supporters of the organization enjoyed live music by Michael Guarnieri and Pao Pao and delicious fare from longtime Rye favorite, Jerry’s Post Road Market.

The celebration included the unveiling of a newly constructed labyrinth with bricks engraved in honor of loved ones who lost the fight against cancer, as well as tributes to survivors and many others who have helped in the fight along the way. The idea for the labyrinth was to unite the community by creating a quiet place for reflection and a space for family and friends to gather. Soul Ryeders founder Sandy Samberg said, “The labyrinth is filled with messages of love, hope, strength, and inspiration,” and that additional bricks will be added over time to make it an integral part of the community for years to come.

The program began with Rye Middle School seventh grader Maelin Doran, who sang a beautiful, goosebump-inducing rendition of “Fight Song.” Afterward, hugs and tissues were in high demand as several brave and inspiring women shared harrowing stories of their battles against cancer. Jenn Doto and Sondra Fizzinoglia, both first-grade teachers, became “breasties” after they were diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time. Connected by and given unwavering support from Soul Ryeders, these women shared their greatest fears and found solace through “texts, tea, tears, and time”.

JoAnn Linden, whose sister lives in Rye, was connected with Soul Ryeders after her life-changing cancer diagnosis. At first hesitant since she lived an hour away, Linden took a leap of faith and attended Mondays with Soul Ryeders at a local beauty salon. She immediately felt the warmth, generosity, and support of the organization, and was later inspired to start a similar cancer support program at a salon near her home on Long Island.

April Deen’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As a mother of 2½-year-old twins, her family was searching for support through any means possible. Deen’s brother, a devoted yogi, found her a Yoga for Cancer class sponsored by Soul Ryeders. Her instructor then connected Deen with Samberg, who showed up at her door with a meal and care packages for her twins. Whether it was massages, reflexology, or lending her a wig, “their generosity and support was endless,” she said.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after Callie Zola, a high school senior, shared her tragic story of being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma right in the middle of her junior year. “Being a teenager is hard enough; being a teenager with cancer was a whole different ballgame,” she said, fighting back tears. Because of her age, Zola struggled to find anyone to talk to who could really understand the range of emotions she was going through. She was connected with Soul Ryeders, and upon meeting with coordinator Janet Muller, said “I felt so understood — it was one of the first times I truly felt comfortable and okay this past winter.” After a grueling six months of chemotherapy, she is now cancer free. A testament to her courage, before Zola’s treatment was even finished, she attended the junior prom — her hair styled courtesy of Soul Ryeders.

The common thread of the evening was the kind, generous and unwavering support Soul Ryeders has given so many people affected by cancer over the last ten years. The community is forever grateful for this important work and looks forward to the next ten years.

Susan Marynowski, Monica Brenner, Sandy Samberg, Lesley Findlay, Heidi Kitlas, and Christine Lombardo

A labyrinth filled with love