When personal tragedy struck Mount Saint Mary College alumna Iris Petrillo, she used it as inspiration to help the community she loves.
Petrillo (formerly Heller) is a proud 1984 graduate of the Mount's Nursing program. In 1992, she was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease. Sadly, her mother suffered from Lupus as well and passed away in the year 2000 from complications of disease.
In her mother's memory, Petrillo founded the Hudson Valley Walk to End Lupus Now six years ago.
"I felt very strongly that we needed awareness of Lupus in this region," explained Petrillo. "At that time, the closest walk was in New York City, so with my family and friends I set up the Hudson Valley Lupus Walk."
Since 2015, Petrillo's walk has grown tremendously. In its first year alone, the walk earned more than $10,000 for the Lupus Foundation of America. In total, the Hudson Valley walk has raised more than $100,000.
"The support that I received from local businesses and friends was overwhelming," said Petrillo. "My community came together for me and the Hudson Valley Lupus Walk was such a success. I also met so many people who were grateful to have a local walk. I am so proud of my accomplishments and forever grateful to my family and friends that supported my original idea for a local walk."
This year, the HV Walk to End Lupus Now will take place virtually on Saturday, October 16. To register, visit walktoendlupus.org/hudsonvalley. Contact Nicole Koretsky at Koretsky@lupus.org for more information.
"Having a local walk helps to raise awareness in the Hudson Valley," Petrillo noted. "Raising awareness helps to support those of us who suffer from Lupus because we realize that we are not alone. I have met and helped counsel many people from my local walks. It's good to know that I have made a difference. I hope to continue to make positive changes, embrace my community, and be a support to those that need it."
Petrillo said that she owes much of her personal success to her alma mater. Mount Saint Mary College "helped me to become who I am because I was able to get a great education close to home," she said. "My desire to stay local stemmed from my mother being so ill and she was so proud of me when I chose the Mount. I did not want to be away from her at that time...[The Mount] gave me the ability to remain in my community and continue to grow each day. I truly feel that my Nursing career started off on such a great note because the education that I received at MSMC helped me realize my capabilities."