Answer to Cancer supporters dampened but determined

VERO BEACH — Five years ago, a group of Grand Harbor friends, who had all been touched by cancer in one way or another, came up with the idea of a community charity event to help fight the disease, and Answer to Cancer was launched.  With two outstanding courses at Grand Harbor and a smaller but equally challenging course on the adjacent Oak Harbor property, opting to have a golf tournament was the easy part; deciding where to donate the money was more difficult.

They eventually determined that the event should benefit all forms of cancer and that 100- percent of the funds raised should be applied towards research or patient care.

“We decided we wanted the money to stay local and to go straight to our own Cancer Center,” said committee member Carole Casey.  Carole’s husband Don and friend Carole Plante, themselves both cancer survivors, have co-chaired the event since its first year.  “Almost everyone on the committee is a cancer survivor,” added Carole. Unfortunately, the record rainfall Sunday night into early Monday forced the cancellation of the tournament, but it certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the 240 people who attended the dinner Monday evening.  And, just so they wouldn’t miss out on an afternoon on the links, Grand Harbor generously gave rain-checks to the sponsors and to everyone who had signed up to play.

The evening turned out to be a delightful one, both outside with balmy breezes, a full moon and a welcoming Luminaria-lined driveway, and inside with guests fresh and energetic after not having played an afternoon of golf.  Soft, acoustical guitar sounds of the talented Terry Dobson provided the perfect background music, and additional Luminaria on the tables in remembrance of loved ones reinforced the importance of the mission.

As the particularly homogenous group mingled over cocktails, committee members solicited arm-lengths of tickets for the 50/50 drawing, which guests wore like boas draped around their necks.  And committee member Mary Pagonis sold last minute chances to the large selection of raffle items she had collected from area businesses and friends.

“We’re hoping to raise more than $30,000 and I think we will,” said Carole Plante.  “We’ve raised more than $100,000 over the past five years and this year is bigger than ever.  We are giving the money to the Cancer Center through the Foundation [Indian River Medical Center Foundation] to redo the waiting room.”

Showing me the preliminary drawings for the new reception area, Plante added, “We’re hoping we can raise enough to get at least half of it done. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work too.”

Carole Plante and Don Casey spoke briefly to the group before dinner and introduced IRMC Foundation’s Executive Director Jan Donlan, and Murray Fournie, Director of Major Gifts & Planned Giving.

Remembering the fear on the faces of a husband and wife she had noticed at the Cancer Center Plante said, “Cancer is debilitating and very scary.  We want to make the waiting room into a comfort zone for the patients and their families.  We cannot thank you enough for being here and supporting us.”

Casey also introduced Dr. John Petersen who had treated him at the Cancer Center, quipping, “I’m glad that I’m here and I’m glad that you’re here.”

As they got ready to draw the names for the raffle prizes, Carole Casey excitedly said, “I just bought that raffle drum!  How many people have their own raffle drum?”

Casey also admonished guests to not attempt donating back their 50/50 winnings.  As she said to me later, “So many people feel they should donate it back, but we won’t take it back; that’s theirs.”

Don Casey laughed when he remembered the first year they tried to donate the money to the hospital saying,  “They looked at us like, who are you people and why are you giving us money?  When Dr. Peterson came last year we had 110 golf carts all lined up and he was amazed at all the people.”

“It’s really become its own event with its own momentum,” Casey continued.  “We never focus on just the money.  It’s really about bringing people together to honor those who have had cancer and to support friends who are dealing with it now.”  {igallery 174}

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