GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

May 3, 2013

Rockport benefit walk hails an adopted visitor

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — The late Kimberly Sharfstein never set foot in Rockport, yet each year more than 100 people of all ages gather here for a benefit walk in her memory.

The small seaside town became a place of healing for a family who lost its eldest daughter to cancer, and come Saturday, the 13th annual Kim’s Walk of Hope will step off again with a gathering that begins at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockport.

“Even though Kimberly never visited Rockport, she brought us all here,” said her mother, Cindy Sharfstein.

The casual three-mile walk has become a family event for many, and all proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that provides housing for families whose children are undergoing treatment. The Sharfstein family utilized the Ronald McDonald House in both Manhattan and Columbus, Ohio while their daughter received treatment.

In another twist of fate, Kim’s family now has made Rockport their home.

Cindy and Jerry Sharfstein, her parents, talked about their eldest daughter, who was diagnosed at the age of 22 with a pediatric soft tissue cancer. She had just graduated from Ohio’s Denison University in May 1992, having majored in psychology with a minor in religion. She died in 1996.

To mark the one year anniversary of Kim’s death, the family gathered in Rockport at the passing suggestion of a friend.

”We wanted to be together as a family,” said Cindy Sharfstein. At the time, none of the family lived in Rockport but because of work commitments, it was not possible to gather at the family home in central New York.

“So, Jerry and I came here,” said Sharfstein. “Alyssa was living in Cambridge and heard about this lovely little town of Rockport by a friend. So we went to Rockport on the day that marked her death. It was one of those absolutely spectacular New England summer days with the bright blue sky and we sat up on the rocks at Halibut Point State Park.”

”Subsequently, we vacationed here after being enchanted that day, and finding it so healing,” she added. “Over the years, both daughters came to live here.”

In 2001, her sister, Alyssa English, a speech therapist in Rockport Public Schools, started the walk. She described her late sister as passionate and “super intelligent.”

”Even though people here never knew Kim, it has become a special event,” she said. In particular, proceeds of this walk go to the Ronald McDonald Houses of Boston and Syracuse.

Kim’s other sister is Amy Rich, who works at Rockport Music; Both are raising their families here, while their brother, Robbie, will travel from New York for Saturday’s event, too. The registration fee for the walk is $20, and can be done that morning. There are door prizes and raffles. For more information, call Cindy or Jerry at 978-309-8159.

Rich said she is moved to know that, 13 years later, the walk continues to honor both her sister and all those loved ones lost to cancer.

”We all have someone who we walk for. Some of us have a few,” she said. “It’s a way for us all to share our experiences, our joy, and our tears together while having a wonderful time taking in all the beauty of this incredible town — a town I am honored to call home.”

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.