With no family history of the disease, the news came as a complete shock when Maria Baum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 42. Shortly after her diagnosis, Maria was introduced to paddle boarding by her close friend, Richard Perry. The solace she found on the water prompted her to help others affected by the disease by inspiring her beloved Hamptons community to help raise funds for lifesaving research.
As a wife, mother of four and successful business woman, Maria started paddle boarding as a way to balance her body and mind as she underwent treatment.
“At the time I wanted to try to keep [the diagnosis] to myself, I didn’t want to burden family and friends. I wanted to be that strong person for everybody else, especially my children. It was my time to let it all go, and to feel strong.”
Maria immediately was inspired to use her experience as a means of inspiring her community to support critical research. She and her husband, Larry, combined Maria’s goal to give back with her love of paddle boarding by organizing a small race and party in the Hamptons with the help of friends Richard and Lisa Perry. They were blown away by the community’s support, and Maria recognized the event’s potential to make an even greater impact.
In 2012, the Baums and the Perrys came to BCRF with their idea and, together, the Hampton’s Paddle & Party for Pink was created. The two-part event has become an annual celebration of giving; it kicks off in the morning with a World Paddle Association (WPA) paddleboard race at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor, NY. At sunset, guests gather for an evening party to raise funds for breast cancer research.
“I am so proud of the actual advances and change that we are responsible for by supporting BCRF researchers,” stated Maria Baum, who now serves on BCRF’s Board of Directors.
What began as 85 paddlers on Haven’s Beach in 2012 has grown to over 200 paddlers, including pro-surfer Laird Hamilton and his wife, world- renowned athlete, author and model Gabby Reece, supporting BCRF and Maria’s vision.
“Some people may be nervous to start a fundraiser because they are worried that they won’t hit a goal they may initially set but It doesn’t matter how much you raise because you’ll see that it takes on a life of its own. There is no failure, people shouldn’t be afraid to start,” Maria said reflecting on taking the first steps of fundraising. “It started as something that was just in my head…then we made it actionable.”
Last year, the sunset party hosted over 600 guests including Tracy Anderson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lena Dunham, among many others.
“My kids were little when it first started five years ago, and they know it’s part of me now. This year my 8-year-old asked me ‘Why do we do this for breast cancer?’ And I was so happy that he doesn’t think of me as a sick person, but he understands how vibrant the event is and wants to know why we do what we do,” stated Maria.
BCRF’s Hamptons Paddle and Party for Pink, which has raised over $5 million to date, returns this year on August 6.
“I look around and there is not a better feeling,” Maria said of the morning paddle race. “We see so many people want to give their own time and effort, it becomes exponential. It becomes personal to them…and that is what is really incredible.”
To learn more about Hamptons Paddle and Party for Pink or to purchase tickets, click here.
To bid on this year’s one-of-a-kind paddle boards in support of BCRF, click here.