Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, May 24, 2018

LH Slossberg webFrom left, Betsy Nilan, president of the Get In Touch Foundation; Senator Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford); Toni Iadarola, president of Lauralton Hall in Milford; and Nancy Church, Norma Pfriem Breast Center community education coordinator, gather at Lauralton Hall on Oct. 5 to announce the new law requiring all public schools in Connecticut to incorporate breast health education into their curriculum.

MILFORD – During her own battle with breast cancer, Mary Ann Wasil of Milford created the nonprofit Get In Touch Foundation (GIT) to educate girls about breast health.

As an all-girls’ high school, Lauralton Hall has had a strong GIT school chapter for 10 years and active youth ambassadors who help raise awareness about the cause. In recognition of the students’ support, GIT president Betsy Nilan and Senator Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford) chose the school as the setting to announce on Oct. 5 the passage of a new law inspired by Ms. Wasil.

"We are honored that the state of Connecticut has passed a law in memory of our founder, and my mother, Mary Ann Wasil, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 39 years old,” said Ms. Nilan. “Through this law, we come one step closer to assuring all girls in Connecticut have access to free breast-health education. While our Get In Touch Girls' Program specifically targets girls in grades five through 12, men and women of all ages should be familiar with breast self-exams. There is no cure for cancer yet, so right now, early detection is our best defense."

Ms. Wasil passed away on April 15, 2016, but her legacy lives on through the new law that requires all public schools in the state to incorporate breast-health education into their curriculum. All students must receive age- and developmentally appropriate instruction in performing sel-fexaminations for breast cancer and testicular cancer. Research has shown that students who receive this kind of instruction have a much better understanding of their personal health and cancer risks.

“Early identification means early action and far better outcomes for women with breast cancer,” said Senator Slossberg. “Schools throughout Connecticut need to follow the example of Lauralton Hall in ensuring that all their students are informed about their own health and trained to identify a problem.

“I introduced this legislation at the request of Mary Ann Wasil,” she went on. “It is what we talked about the last time I saw her, and I know she would be thrilled to see it signed into law. I am glad that we were able to pass this law in her memory, and it will serve as one more piece of her incredible legacy.”

Numerous schools in Connecticut and around the country have adopted the program and have had positive responses from students and school nurses alike. Given the ever-increasing rates of breast cancer in the United States and particularly the growth rate among younger and younger women, the need for an educational program to help girls understand and “get in touch” with their breasts for early detection is growing in importance.

“Unfortunately, breast cancer has touched many members of our community. Lauralton has raised thousands of dollars for the GIT Foundation as part of the school’s Outreach Program and the Sister of Mercy’s commitment to women’s issues,” said Toni Iadarola, president of Lauralton Hall.

This year, Lauralton Hall has a week full of GIT activities that will culminate in the inaugural Mary Ann Wasil Daisy Run at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 29.

With “Courage & Faith to Hope & Strength” as a theme, the turf field on the campus will be transformed into celebration in support of breast cancer awareness. The event is open to all ages. Participants may register at 12:30 for $10 and receive a tee-shirt and raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets to win gift cards may also be purchased. 

The school’s Advanced Placement physics and engineering students have built projects that will be on display in the center of the in support of the event.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Get in Touch Foundation and the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Cancer Center in Bridgeport.

Additional information and pre-registration materials are at tnapolitano@lauraltonhall.org.