The Beach Pavilion of the JW Marriott Marco Island was the place to be on February 10 to Reach for the Stars to Find a Cure, the American Cancer Society’s Imagination Ball, presented by Corrie Grado.
This year’s event celebrated 35 years of raising funds in the fight against cancer. It all began in 1983 when a black tie social, then known as the American Cancer Soiree, was chaired by Corrie Grado, then known as Corrie Llewellyn, and co-chaired by Norma Beckwith. Funds that have been raised over the years have aided in research and the development of new treatments that have saved many lives.
Event Chair Debra Shanahan welcomed the crowd, saying “Tonight we are honored to be with friends, family and cancer survivors who continuously unite to finish the fight and find a cure for this horrific disease. This year we hope to reach new heights. With your help and encouragement, there are absolutely no limits!” For Debra, the fight against cancer is personal. Her husband, Dick Shanahan, passed away in 2016 from complications of hepatobiliary cancer.
Stacey Deffenbaugh of NBC-2 News emceed the event that featured fine food in the JW Marriott tradition and music by Sunjammer with Stacey Allison. Speed painter Tim Decker wowed the crowd with his splashing demonstration of lightning fast portrait creations of Frank Sinatra and the Statue of Liberty. His paintings then raised funds as part of the live auction led by professional auctioneer Rick Gallo. Other live auction items included a one week stay at the Christie Club in Steamboat Springs, donated by Therese Schmidt; a private charter on the Calusa Spirit, donated by Marco Island Water Sports and the JW Marriott Culinary Team; and exclusive packages donated by the Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa, Verdi’s Bistro and the JW Marriott Marco Island. A vast array of silent auction items donated by local businesses and individuals added to the fun and funds. Guests embraced the opportunity to hug away cancer with the stuffed animal program, sponsored by John R. Wood Properties. A $100 donation purchased a stuffed panda named Baboo that will be delivered to a child in a local hospital along with the donor’s personal message of healing.
The prestigious Grado award was presented to Marco Island residents Ray and Louise Jean in recognition of their substantial contribution to the fight against cancer. Members of the Laureate Society for major donors, the Jeans graciously accepted the award, and thanked the staff and volunteers of the American Cancer Society for the organization’s dedication to research and support services for those affected by the disease. Ray and Louise Jean received an additional special gift that evening with a surprise visit from 2 of their 3 children!
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening was the video presentation of an interview with colon cancer survivor, Sherill Kiely. The 2016 recipient of the Sandy Holdgate Spirit of Relay Award, Kiely is an avid fundraiser for the ACS Relay For Life of Marco Island. This brave survivor shared her experience of diagnosis, treatments and recovery aided by the support of the American Cancer Society. She is a strong advocate for early detection through cancer screening. This courageous lady is an inspiration for all of us!
The evening concluded with the Finish the Fight round. Guests enthusiastically pledged additional support to the American Cancer Society in the mission to save lives, celebrate life and fund the fight for a world without cancer.
“Once again, our wonderful sponsors, donors, patrons and volunteers have continued to ensure that this evening is a fun-filled, successful event. For that, we are extremely grateful. On behalf of our loved ones who benefit from your dedicated support, we express our deepest and most sincere thanks,” said Debra Shanahan. “Imagine a world without cancer!”