This October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but a mainstay event on the San Quentin prison yard to commemorate it will not take place due to COVID-19.
October 24-25th would have marked the 12th Annual San Quentin CARES: Walk for a Cure. The two-day breast cancer walk brings volunteers inside San Quentin, where they walk alongside the incarcerated to raise money for breast cancer awareness. Last year hundreds of San Quentin residents contributed $5 each to participate, while other prisoners produced art to raise more than $8,000 for a local woman’s center.
The SQ CARES organizing team was in the midst of planning this summer’s art show when COVID-19 shut down San Quentin to outside advisers, according to volunteer organizer Samantha Feld. The team was collecting art made by prisoners to sell in Oakland to contribute to the SQ CARES fundraiser.
That event, too, was canceled by the pandemic. The original idea for a
walk and fundraiser inside San Quentin occurred in 2009 after a prisoner watched the Avon Walk Against Breast Cancer on television. Stephen Pascasio, a founding member of the SQ CARES committee, helped oversee
the growth of the event over the years.
“The members of the committee were really thinking creatively about how to make a bigger impact in the broader community and how to spread the word about the work that’s happening inside San Quentin,” Feld explained
of the work over the past few years.
These past few months have been difficult as the inside and outside organizers of SQ CARES have not been in touch, said Feld. The event
had become an “opportunity to connect with folks I’ve seen over the years, share stories about loved ones and connect with new folks,” she said. “There’s so much passion, energy and excitement around the committee’s work and I’m sad we won’t be able to channel it through the walk or the art show.”
Many members of the organizing committee have left prison since the inaugural walk, with two members leaving in the past few months. This spring, both Carlos Meza and Alvin Timbol were found suitable for parole and both returned home.
“The committee is just overjoyed these men are back in the community,” Feld said. “We’ve talked that in the future, maybe they can join the
walk for a weekend coming in from the outside.”