When Donna Stampone took to the stage to tell her breast cancer story on Sept. 10, 2016, it was a different BRIGHT Run for her.

After seven years of participating in the BRIGHT Run, it was the first time Donna was there without her mother, Wilma Prosia, who died of breast cancer the previous March.

“My focus that day was on doing this for my mom,” Donna said. “I was there every step of the way with her and definitely felt her presence with me that day.

“During my speech, when I said ‘she is not here in body but I know she is with me in spirit,’ the rain just came pouring down,” she said. “It actually took my breath away and I stopped and looked up and smiled. This event was special to her and she was such a big supporter of it, so when I was asked I knew I had to do it not only for myself and to help others but in her memory.”

Approaching its 10th anniversary celebration, the BRIGHT Run has raised about $2.8 million and supported 15 local breast cancer projects. Through the past eight months, we have profiled the courageous people who have been our survivor spokespeople over the years. Donna told her story at BRIGHT Run 2016.

Donna was diagnosed with early Stage 1 breast cancer in August 2009. She was 39. As a 17-year-old, she had undergone mantle radiation therapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Even though studies suggested a higher risk of breast cancer 22 to 26 years after that treatment, the breast cancer diagnosis was devastating.

“I had beaten cancer already,” said Donna, a teacher with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. “I had two young children. I called my husband, crying uncontrollably.”

During visits to the cancer centre, Donna noticed brochures about the BRIGHT Run. The weekend before her double mastectomy, she and a team of family and friends participated in their first BRIGHT Run. In just two weeks, her team raised about $5,000.

“The BRIGHT Run gave me tremendous strength and courage to go into my surgery,” Donna said.

Donna’s team, IN IT TOGETHER, has raised between $4,000 and $4,500 each year since then.

Seven women in Donna’s family have battled breast cancer. It took her grandmother more than 30 years ago and her mother in March 2016. Her aunt lives with breast cancer.

“The BRIGHT Run is my thing,” Donna said. “There is such a family feeling to it. And such a feeling of hope.”