When Paul Boulanger took part in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in 2001, it dismayed him that out of approximately 3,000 participants, only 77 were men.
Boulanger proceeded to get Scott Walters and 35 other guys together and formed Men With Heart. Eight years later, the Boston-based, all-volunteer organization has raised nearly $1 million for breast cancer prevention, treatment and awareness, while promoting the type of proactive behavior that led to its inception.
"We're trying to be a resource for guys who want to do something rather than sit back and not do anything," said Walters, who serves as treasurer and director and whose mother is a 15-year breast cancer survivor.
As part of the NHL's "Hockey Fights Cancer" initiative and in conjunction with the Washington Capitals
hosting their awareness night, Versus will feature Men With Heart during a segment of Tuesday's nationally-televised game between the Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers
Billy Jaffe, who will present the story, and the rest of the announcing team will be wearing the pink-striped ties that have been part of the League's effort to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
"It doesn't seem like anyone nowadays doesn't know someone who has been affected by this disease," Versus NHL Coordinating Producer Mike Baker said. "This is a side of it nobody's really addressed."
"We're trying to be a resource for guys who want to do something rather than sit back and not do anything."
-- Scott Walter, Men With Heart
Baker became aware of Men With Heart not through their walking or fundraising, but because of their trademark yellow T-shirts, which will be featured in an introduction to the Versus segment.
Men With Heart members show up at breast cancer walks and "we line up at the finish line and cheer until every walker has crossed as a means of showing men care about fighting breast cancer," Walters said. "The wave of good feelings that comes from getting guys involved is incredible."
They also carry yellow backpacks with things like candy, Vaseline and other race essentials. One member has written a book about breast cancer husbands. The organization has put together a Men With Heart care kit. It's all in tune with their basic philosophy:
"We are husbands who are doing something constructive rather than resigning ourselves to helplessness. We are sons who have seen our mothers courageously fight an insidious disease. We are brothers who want to stand beside our sisters in this battle. We are relatives, friends, lovers, colleagues, neighbors and admirers of the women who are struggling with, often beating and, regrettably, sometimes losing the fight with breast cancer."
Individually, Men With Heart members raise over $4,000 a year and walk 100 miles for the two-day Avon and the three-day Susan G. Komen overnight walks, while participating in a variety of other events. Collectively, they inspire and empower those who have beaten a killer and those still in the fight of their lives.
Hockey fans and anyone else interested in supporting the non-profit organization are encouraged to visit www.menwithheart.org
-- Walters stressed that while donations are always accepted, what he wants more than anything is for even more men to join in the battle against breast cancer.
"First and foremost, we want more men to get involved. Avon and Komen hold great walks across the country. If motivated, people who come to our Web site are welcome to come to Boston and walk in the Avon or Komen with us," Walters said.