‘An Affair to Remember’

From left, Bill and Penny Cooper, Angela Schultz and Joanne Spina look over the offerings at Labor of Love Creations on Friday evening at the Women’s Health Coalition’s 17th Annual Pink Ribbon Celebration. Spina was the founder of Journey of Hope, which provides mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

From left, Bill and Penny Cooper, Angela Schultz and Joanne Spina look over the offerings at Labor of Love Creations on Friday evening at the Women’s Health Coalition’s 17th Annual Pink Ribbon Celebration. Spina was the founder of Journey of Hope, which provides mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women.

Everything was coming up rosy at the Women’s Health Coalition’s Pink Ribbon Celebration on Friday.

The event, in its 17th year, welcomed more than 110 men and women to “Jazz Under a Pink Moon” at the Fort Lewis College Ballroom. And while it continues with the theme of pink because it falls in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the coalition has been able to expand its support to men and women undergoing treatment for any kind of cancer.

It offers two kinds of support – grants of up to $500 to help pay nonmedical bills such as utilities and rent; and gas cards, $25 per week for up to eight weeks, to help cover the cost of driving to treatment. (Imagine living in Dove Creek and needing to drive to Mercy Regional Medical Center for radiation treatment every day for six weeks – that gas can really add up.)

Having been through a medical crisis myself this year, I know firsthand how important the WHC’s grants and gift cards are to those undergoing cancer treatment. It’s extraordinary how many balls one has to keep in the air when undergoing treatment, often missing work so even the daily expenses are overwhelming.

The coalition’s grant giving has increased exponentially in the last few years – $10,000 in 2009 to 20 patients, $21,500 in 2010 to 44 patients and $34,000 in 2011 to 68 patients living everywhere between Pagosa Springs to Dolores.

That doesn’t include the gas-card monies, which totaled $18,000 last year alone.

Where does the coalition get all that money? From a variety of sources, including Pink Digs for the Cure, Pink Streaks, a Zumbathon and yes, the Pink Ribbon Affair.

The Zumbathon, courtesy of my colleague Karla Sluis, who got more than 100 women to Gimme a Shimmy; Pink Ribbon sponsors; an unexpected live auction (people donated items for a silent auction even though they weren’t asked to do so); and proceeds from the 14 generous artists who had tables at the event brought in about $11,250.

The Pink Digs , the brainchild of Terene Foutz, is one of WHC’s biggest fundraisers. The girls volleyball teams from Durango and Ignacio high schools as well as Miller, Escalante, Ignacio and Bayfield middle schools donate money themselves and raise more by writing letters to friends, family and local businesses. B.J. Boucher, who has been involved with the coalition since its founding, tells me BP is a major supporter of Pink Digs, always donating $5,000 or more.

Durango Daybreak Rotary Club honored Foutz with its Community Service Award this summer for her generosity of spirit and for the great example she is setting for these young women.

Fourteen salons participated in the Pink Streaks campaign, which has raised $25,000 over the last six years. I caught up with Misty Tucson from 6th Street Salon & Day Spa on Friday. Not only did she participate with the other stylists at her salon to put pink streaks in people’s hair, to the tune of $500, she collaborated with the preschool teachers at Bayfield Early Education Programs to put pink streaks into the hair of both children and parents. That led to another $400 raised.

It was Tucson’s first foray into fundraising, and her mind is already churning with ideas for next year.

Other salons putting a touch of pink into La Plata County coiffures were Beyond the Bridge, Crazy Horse, Incognito, Libby’s, Polished, Sky Ute, Up North and Hello Gorgeous salons, the General Hair Store, Hair Fusion, Salon Capri, Shampoo Durango, Signature Salon & Spa, Uptown Girls and Velvet Monkey.

The event has another purpose, celebrating those who have undergone treatment and come out the other side to share what they have learned. For the third year in a row, Cindy Shelton of Wildwoods Fine Flowers donated a colorful array of roses, with one going to each cancer survivor in recognition of more birthdays to celebrate.

Six women volunteered to serve as models, wearing clothing from Pine Needle Mountaineering and Christopher & Banks. But what they were really modeling was grace under pressure.

Each had a story about her journey, and each shared lessons learned along the way. The models were Kayla Hefner, Janice Moore, Marilyn Monger, Sandra Corbitt, Janet Schell and Linda Hester.

What was their advice? Fight as though you have already won the battle, never feel sorry for yourself, get an advocate to hear what you miss ... and as expressed in a variety of ways, find ways to be happy and laugh at the absurdity of it all.

The event wasn’t all serious, because it is, after all, a celebration. Actual Proof, the combo featuring Chad MacCluskey, Brad Tarpley, Lee Bartley and Bob Newnam, put the jazz into “Jazz Under a Pink Moon.” MacCluskey clearly had fun creating a playlist of songs with “moon” in the title.

While managing to avoid the predictable “Blue Moon,” he came up with “Paper Moon,” “Moon River,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Moonglow,” “Moonlight Becomes You,” “How High the Moon” and “Moon Sand Song.” Many of them were songs the musicians learned specifically for the evening. Playing “Name That Tune” was great fun.

Many kudos go to the members of the Women’s Health Coalition, who work hard all year, and extra hard in October, for a cause that should be dear to all of our hearts, because I would like to meet the person whose life hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way.

In addition to Boucher, Foutz and Schell, whom I have already mentioned, those women are Carol McGuire, Mary Howell, Debbie Meyers, Angela Schultz, Sheree Culhane, Margaret Martin, Myoung Frey, Connie Kane, Susie Young, Anna Hofman, Cheryle Brandsma, Tori Ossola, Susie Stilwell, Sharon Wiebel and Julie MacCluskey. Many of these women are now or have been involved on the medical side of oncology treatment, so they’re helping on both sides of the equation.

McGuire said the group is 100 percent volunteers, and they “live” in a post office box. The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado administers its funds.

To learn more, visit www.SWWomensHealthCoalition.com or call the WHC at 799-1654 or the Cancer Resource Center at 403-0086.

It also pays to read the Herald’s Local Briefs, because the coalition puts on a women’s health forum twice a year that is highly informative. I went to one a couple of years ago and couldn’t figure out how to condense all that useful knowledge in a meaningful way in Neighbors – it was just that good and that jam-packed.

If you couldn’t make it to Jazz Under a Pink Moon, you can still contribute to the cause by mailing your donation to WHC, P.O. Box 1455, Durango, CO 81302.

durango colorado

Trick or treating for their birthdays are Willa Beatty, Bud Beebe, Shawna Long, Shirley Buslee, Joe Herrera, Tina Trump, Barney Anderson, Bruce Rodman, JoAnn Vota, Paul Boyer, Bailey Kunkel, Edgar Capen and Barbara Williams.

durango colorado

Here’s wishing all of my readers a Happy Halloween. Please don’t drink and drive, because I want all my readers and all the little munchkins to get home safe and sound after all the frivolity.

durango colorado

Everyone’s coming in costume for the anniversaries of Lee and Sandy Campbell and Creighton and BJo Hatten.

durango colorado

Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory) and include no more than three to five people.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story