BURRILLVILLE – Little white tags cover a pink t-shirt worn by Erin Todisco-Place as she sets out on the journey every year.
The Burrillville resident will cover 44 miles over three days, and as her body becomes tired and her feet sore, she’ll look down at those tags for a little inspiration.
The tags are collected annually at La Dolce Vita, an evening of dinner, dancing and celebration that Todisco-Place uses to raise money to sponsor her walk, and to help in the fight against breast cancer.
Many of the tags just have names, written by those who have lost someone to the disease. Others are encouraging and hopeful, a reminder that for one Burrillville woman on a mission, the work is not yet done.
Todisco-Place will take part in GloriDays, walking with others from across the state and beyond at Colt State Park in Bristol to raise funds for the Gloria Gemma Research Foundation.
At an event next month, she’ll raise thousands for the cause.
Tickets are now on sale for Todisco-Place’s ninth annual La Dolce Vita fundraising ball, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19 starting at 6 p.m. at Bella Restaurant. The event includes dinner, dancing, a silent auction, raffles, a door prize, a photo booth and more.
It is a fun night out for both survivors, and those who have lost someone to the disease. The organizer has chosen to focus on the positive in both the naming and tone of the annual ball, which translates to “a celebration of life.”
“Everything is so focused on the treatment, and that’s really important, but for survivors, they’re still here, and I thought it would be nice to celebrate that,” explained Todisco-Place. “Anyone I’ve known, even in passing, who was affected by cancer – everything was so dismal. I felt people needed something that would show them a little hope, and a little happiness.”
Many attendees dress up for the special evening, and auction prizes at the annual gala will include gift certificates and baskets from many local businesses, including some filled with liquor, wine and beer. One raffle item, tickets to Dear Evan Hansen at Providence Performing Arts Center, is valued at $200.
Todisco-Place has raised some $23,000 for charities since her first ball in 2009, bringing around $5,600 in 2018 alone.
But that’s only half the effort.
At the walk itself in June, the organization keeps medics on hand to treat blisters, feeds participants, and offers activities like movie night and yoga to keep them busy. The event goes on rain or shine and for two nights, the walkers will camp out at the park.
Last year, Todisco-Place even suffered from mild heat exhaustion during the three-day challenge.
“They do everything possible to make sure that we’re comfortable and safe as we go out day after day,” said Todisco-Place. “They keep everyone active, and it takes their mind off of how much their feet hurt.”
She takes part the event alone, but noted that the environment is supportive, and strangers wait for you if you fall behind.
“They’re so wonderful,” she said. “It’s a great sense of camaraderie and togetherness. I’m never really by myself.”
And whenever Todisco-Place starts to lose energy, she looks down at her shirt to remember what’s at stake.
“We walk for those who can’t,” reads one tag pinned to the garment.
“For my mother fighting leukemia,” says another.
Tickets for La Dolce Vita cost $40 or $300 for a table of 10 and can be purchased by contacting Erin Todisco-Place at 401-465-1604 or firstname.lastname@example.org .