American Cancer Society: The Official Sponsor of Birthdays
The American Cancer Society is dedicated to creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Each birthday is special to a cancer survivor and each year is precious. Since 2007, our local SCV American Cancer Society unit has hosted an event to help cancer survivors celebrate being cancer-free. The Survivors and Caregivers event, which also invites patients undergoing treatment, is held each year in conjunction with Relay For Life, ACS’s largest fundraiser. Teresa Kerr, the event’s first co-chair, said that the gathering has evolved from a simple evening of wine and cheese to a full dinner party. This year, the Survivors and Caregivers Dinner was held on April 20 at St. Clare’s Catholic Church in Canyon Country, and over 250 guests attended.
The event chair, Kymmer Crookston, got involved with Relay For Life thirteen years ago when her eleven-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer. Just three years ago, Kymmer, an active volunteer for ACS, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Following her treatment, Kymmer committed to chairing the Survivors dinner. Aligning the affair with Relay For Life’s theme “The Most Magical Relay on Earth,” Relay teams were invited to decorate tables for guests by providing Disney themed centerpieces and trimmings. As guests arrived, they entered an Enchanted Evening room evoking a medieval castle. Dinner was served in a room labeled “Tony’s—recommended by Lady and the Tramp.” The menu featured spaghetti and meatballs, tortellini, and salads donated through the generosity of Stonefire, Presto Pasta, and Aldi. Kymmer said of all the volunteers, “I loved the team cooperation, and it just worked so well.”
The featured entertainment promoted a festive, magical feel. The 501st Legion and the Rebel Alliance Star Wars reenactors provided fun photo opportunities. Princesses and pirates from Golden Afternoon Princess Parties were also on hand for a smile and a selfie. Singers dressed as Lumiere and Mrs. Potts sang “Be Our Guest,” and students under the direction of music teacher Penny Sande provided a dinner serenade. Guests enjoyed bidding on raffle items and browsing the vendor tables of gifts and homemade crafts. Those who found “hidden Mickeys” concealed throughout the castle received additional raffle tickets.
The evening, which was hosted free of charge, provided patients, survivors and caregivers an opportunity to share companionship, offer support, and celebrate survivorship. It culminated with keynote speaker Don Elm who presented an inspiring speech about living with metastatic cancer. An 11-year cancer warrior, he stressed the importance of supportive caregivers and encouraged us to make sure we are mindfully living our lives and making the best of the time we have. His words of wisdom remind us to celebrate each day as a gift.
For information about the support services that ACS provides, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.cancer.org or contact the SCV ACS office at 661-298-0886 option 3.
Mary Petersen is a COC English Instructor, longtime SCV resident, and two-time breast cancer survivor.
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