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What we do

As allies of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Rhode Island Allies is best expressed in our mission statement, which is to promote education and to offer support through community outreach, monthly meetings, and individual conversations.

We strive to inform the community that colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable by attending health fairs of various organizations, setting up informational booths at various community events, and meeting monthly to remain up to date with all activities and information.


Rhode Island Allies, in alignment with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, creates positive changes in the way people view and support colorectal cancer research, education, and awareness. It is our mission to be a community of allies who provide hope and support to patients and their families, while saving lives through screening, access, awareness, advocacy and research. It's a mission that reflects the work we do, who we are, and where we are going.

Rhode Island Allies mission:

Offer hope and support locally through the Alliance’s support programs. Financially support the Aliiance’s Blue Hope Financial Assistance program, which provides patients nationwide with a one-time grant to help ease their financial burden. Rhode Island Allies are members of the Alliance’s Buddy Program. Raise awareness of preventive measures with education and screening.

The Rhode Island Allies’ Annual 5K Run/Walk and national Dress in Blue Day program have been instrumental in helping people talk about colorectal cancer. Through these efforts and community health fairs, we have changed the way people view and talk about colorectal cancer. Learn more about the Alliance’s programs and events.

In partnership with other committed groups, organizations, and volunteers, we support the Alliance’s advocacy for policy changes and laws that support the colorectal cancer community.

Our history

Rhode Island Allies, formerly Voices of Rhode Island, was formed in 2007 by Barbara and Joe Joyce. The two had attended the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s national conference in the fall of 2006 and discovered Rhode Island did not have an active chapter of the Alliance. The couple had a vision to raise colorectal cancer awareness throughout Rhode Island. The Warwick Beacon was instrumental in introducing Barbara to the community. They ran her personal story about her fight to beat colon cancer and promoted her quest to grow the Rhode Island chapter. Soon after, secretary Joyce Giarraputo was one of the first to respond. Several other survivors and caretakers have joined the organization since, and in 2009, they held the First Annual 5K Walk/Run held at Warwick City Park, Asylm Rd., Warwick, Rhode Island.

Since then, more than 900 people have participated with the allies in Rhode Island. In 2017, the 5K raised more than $10,000. Rhode Island Allies use the proceeds to fund Health Fairs throughout Rhode Island and Connecticut, advertise locally to promote screening and awareness, support Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month (March), and outreach to the community by meeting monthly, donating to the Alliance’s financial assistance program, and providing colorectal cancer information to physician offices throughout Rhode Island.

Our executive board

Barbara Joyce, Chairman and Founder

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1980 and in 2003 with Stage IV colon cancer. I prayed that I would live long enough to attend my son's wedding, seven months away. Then I aimed to reach my 50th wedding anniversary, and to make each of my children and grandchildren a sweater. I succeeded in accomplishing all of those things and have now made sweaters for my great-grandchildren!

It all started when I viewed a segment of about the Colorectal Cancer Alliance on the "The Today Show" in 2004. I contacted the group and together with my husband, Joe, attended the Colorectal Cancer Alliance National Conference in the fall of 2006 and discovered Rhode Island did not have an active chapter. Joe and I had a vision to raise colon cancer awareness throughout Rhode Island. Subsequently, Rhode Island Allies, local chapter of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance was formed in 2007. The Warwick Beacon was instrumental in introducing me to the community. They ran my personal story about my fight to beat colon cancer and promoted my quest to grow the chapter. Six year later, I am chairperson of the board and state coordinator of the Rhode Island Allies. I am active at the National level as a "Buddy" to other individuals living with or recovering from colon cancer. I recently received the "Volunteer of the Year Award" from the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and I'm also very active in The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island, a partner to many cancer organizations including the Voices Chapter. In June 2012, I was awarded the "Partnership Spirit Award". My quest is to raise awareness - One voice can save a life!

Joseph Joyce, Co-Founder (In Loving Memory)

Joseph Joyce was a valuable member from the start of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance Voice of Rhode Island. He was the husband of the group's founder Barbara Joyce. Joe was her loving and supportive care taker. He stood by her through all her trials and troubles. He shared her bad times and reveled in her successes. He was her backbone and because of his loving and caring support she was able to do all the good work she has accomplished with in this group and in her life. Joe succumbed to Lung and Liver cancer in June of 2012. Even though he is not with us in body his spirit is within us.

Martin Gomm, Outreach

I am a member of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s Rhode Island Allies because my Grandmother passed away from Colon Cancer and my Mother-in-Law is a 10 year 4th stage Colon Cancer Survivor. My primary job in this group is to run the physical arrangements for the Rhode Island Allies Colon Cancer Awareness 5k Walk/run held every August. I have never had this disease but I am part of my Mother-in-Law's support network. I am there when she needs assistance, whatever that may be. I am proud to be associated with this fine group of caring and understanding members.

Patty Gomm, Treasurer

I have been a part of this group since it started here in Rhode Island. My primary responsibility for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance’s Rhode Island Allies is being the Treasurer. I am also responsible for the physical arrangements for our Colon Cancer 5K Awareness Walk/Run held every year on the first weekend in August. I have never had to deal with the personal emotional and physical toils this disease takes on an individual; but I have been part of the support network for my mom, who is a 10 year 4th stage Colon Cancer Survivor. Not only do people need a caretaker but they also need a strong support network to guide them through. This group is made up of individuals willing to put forth so others will be able to find some solace when they need it the most. I am blessed to be a part of it.

Maria Kerwin, Co-chair

I've been a part of the Voice of Rhode Island, Colorectal Cancer Alliance since 2007. I was diagnosed at 42 with Stage IV colon cancer and was seeking out a local group for support. I assume the role of Co-Chair for the group. My passion is to educate and inform those younger than 50 years old that colon cancer is a silent killer and should not be ruled out as a diagnosis due to age. I enjoy organizing and raising funds for our annual walk and contributing in any way I can. I work full time for Bracket Global in the Clinical Research industry and enjoy my wonderful and supportive family - husband Bob and sons - Nick, Mitchell and Max - and of course, my pugs, Lexy and Mya. I cherish each day of my life and feel blessed to be here!

Joyce Giarraputo, Secretary

For the past six years I have been secretary of Colorectal Cancer Alliance/Rhode Island Allies. I was born and raised in Rhode Island into a family that consisted of my mother Marie, father Tony Sr., and older brother Tony Jr. After graduating from high school came love and marriage which resulted in the births of my daughter Tracy and son Christopher, both now married with families of their own.

After twenty-five years of marriage, my husband left our family and shortly thereafter I learned that I had stage 3 colon cancer. During my illness Tracy oversaw the household and my every need while Christopher became the main financial support of our family. Fortunately, after six months of chemotherapy I was declared cancer-free.

At middle age I decided to attend college and received Paralegal Certification from Providence College which enabled me to be employed as a paralegal in excess of ten years. After a layoff I worked as a receptionist/switchboard operator for a national motivational, educational corporation for five years and retired in December 2012.

I now devote my time to my grandson and granddaughter, to Rhode Island Allies recording minutes of the monthly meetings, attending health fairs, participating in chat forums, posting on Facebook and working with other members to organize our annual walk. Rhode Island Allies definitely is a passion of mine.

Dottie McLaughlin

I joined Rhode Island Allies after participating in the 2010 Colon Cancer Awareness Walk. In 2009, much to my surprise, I was diagnosed with Carcinoid cancer of the intestine after a routine colonoscopy. I want to get the word out to others who may be putting off this life-saving test. Working with Rhode Island Allies is a great way to get this done.

My very supportive husband, Mike, also joined the group. We have worked at health fairs and we help with the annual walk. I am employed at ADP as an implementation Project Manager. I enjoy and appreciate my family: my son Dan & daughter-in-law Amy; my daughter Sue and especially my grandsons ... Brennan and Caden. I feel very fortunate to be where I am today!

Sheila A. Amaral

Colon cancer was something other people had, or so I thought. I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer in September 2012. Following my surgery and six months of chemotherapy, and recovery, I decided to participate in the annual walk because I needed to connect with others who had gone through this life changing experience. I was just so grateful to be alive and wanted to help spread the word through my involvement with the Rhode Island Allies. Colorectal cancer is the cancer that no one wants to talk about. People need to know that screening is easy and can save lives. By participating in health fairs, our annual walk, and telling my story to anyone who will listen, I want people to know that screening is easy, and to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. I can tell you, it sure is easier than surgery and chemotherapy!

Eight years ago, I retired from my full time as position as executive assistant after 35 years at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.  I continue to work part-time at Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness. I enjoy spending time with my husband, who recently retired, my two great kids, family and friends. I look forward to doing some traveling, and some day, enjoying my grandchildren. I am blessed to still be cancer free.

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