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A common goal draws guests to ACS 125

VERO BEACH — ACS 125 has become known as one of the best cocktail parties on the beach, and it’s all for a great cause. The first party 30 years ago was the brainchild of Denny Gordon and the late Jack Taylor as a way to raise funds for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Their idea was to invite some friends to get together for a party and have them pledge an annual donation of $125 to the American Cancer Society.

Membership has continued to grow over the years, and in 1996 Northern Trust Bank began hosting the event where it was held once again, on Thursday, January 21. Judi Beaumont, an Estate Administrator at Northern Trust Bank and an American Cancer Society board member chaired ACS 125 with help from fellow Northern Trust employees, Susan Chenault and Andy White.

During a brief ceremony, Beaumont introduced the new members and charter members who were in attendance and Nancy Madsen, Area Director for the American Cancer Society, noted the names of ACS 125 members who had passed away the previous year, including founder Jack Taylor.

Virtually everyone in attendance had been touched by cancer in some fashion and as they visited with one another, sipped on cocktails and nibbled on the passed hors d’oeuvres, many of the guests gladly shared their personal stories.

I caught up with dermatologist Dr. Robert Loewinger and his wife Marcia, who have been ACS 125 members for more than 15 years. “We originally joined because it was right up his alley, and we want to see as much progress toward curing cancer as possible,” said Marcia. “My father and grandfather had cancer and our daughter Lisa is an 11 year breast cancer survivor. We didn’t think she’d be able to have children after all her treatments, but she had twins; they’re our miracle babies.”

Barbara Becker Hurley, a supporter of the American Cancer Society since her days in Darien, Connecticut, moved to Vero Beach in 1988 and has been a major contributor here as well. When asked how she ended up in Vero, she explained, “My parents moved here in the 1950’s and I would often visit; it was my second home. So, when my late husband retired, it was the natural choice.” Her parents, Lillian and Richard Becker, were founding members of ACS 125 and when they passed away, she made a pledge of $50,000 in their honor. Her only request was that a poster listing the founders’ names be displayed at the event; needless to say, the organization was happy to comply.

Charter member Ann Marie McCrystal, a sponsor of the event, related a story about the days when she worked as a nurse here in the 1970s. “I have pictures of Pat Moore, Helen Brackins and me traveling around the county in a van doing pap smears for the American Cancer Society. We would take the van to Fellsmere and park outside Publix. Hugh used to give lectures in the schools on testicular cancer and I did them on breast cancer.”

When I asked new member Kathleen O’Brien Joachim why she had joined, she credited her mother-in-law Lee Watts, who passed away last year at age 91. “She was one of the founding members and introduced me to the group. And then my mother was just diagnosed this year. There is a lot I’d like to do.”

From comments I heard throughout the evening, Gordon and Taylor clearly didn’t take no for an answer when forming the group. As Lawrence Brashears, another event sponsor recalled, “I got a call from Denny saying, send money and show up; so I did. All of these people here are friends and we would all like to find a cure for cancer. That’s the bottom line; that’s the reason we’re all here.” {igallery 135}

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