Our beginning by Mickey Whiting, Founder…
In 1977, after I lost my sister to colon cancer, her friends opened a chapter in her name for the AMC Cancer Research center. My daughter, Audrey Carden and I joined and raised money for cancer research until we became so high in the volunteers at the center that I was nominated to be the Treasurer of the National Volunteers at that center. So we went every other year to see what they had accomplished. In 1997, we were invited to attend the Day of Caring in Denver, Colorado. Later that day we were sitting at a table with the event organizer, Sue Miller and she asked us how we liked the event, and of course we said it was just wonderful, at which time she said ”Why don’t you make one in Miami?” Can you imagine us doing that??? They had 1100 people in attendance. Of course I said”Are you crazy?” Sue Miller and her assistant Elyse Spain then came to Miami and Audrey and I invited a support group of breast cancer survivors to my daughter Carol’s house. We provided all the food and invited some very dear people including Phyllis Teitlebaum, Linda Burrowes, Debi Strochak, Bobbi Meyers, Pat Alpert, and other members of the support group. Sue explained what we were planning to do and everyone was so excited. Since we had no money, Carol bought us a roll of stamps, my other daughter, Sandy, Audrey and I provided the food and we met at Carol’s house. So now we had about 20 lovely ladies to help us get started. I wrote letters to all of my contacts at the Bank to donate money, gifts or be a sponsor.
We chose Signature Gardens as our venue and when Baptist Hospital gave us a donation of $1,000.00 we used that as a deposit. I wrote letters to all the Doctors that Sandy and Audrey thought would be good speakers. Sandy recommended Dr Grace Wang so that was my first letter. Audrey recommended Dr Der Hagopian, that was my second letter, and then we approached some more. So now we had our speakers selected but we still had no money so we had a raffle and asked all those ladies to get gifts. Next, we needed models for our Fashion Show, and Gaby Padron volunteered to do that and get models from the survivors she knew. She got Bloomingdales to do the show.
My daughters and I were the Executive Board, Sandy was our computer person and made our first excel spread sheet, Carol was our graphic person, she did our Save the Date card and brochure and program, Audrey was our contact at Baptist Hospital and I was the gopher because I had just retired from the bank. We had a Board meeting once a month to do our planning, and paid for the meal ourselves; remember we had no money. My son Richard and his wife Lourdes became our decorators at the event. I became the treasurer and Sandy did the registrations and printed the nametags. We were a team and had a very successful 1st event in Feb 2002 .We had Laurie Jennings from Channel 7 as our Mistress of Ceremonies. We had 530 in attendance. We were a class act.
In 2004, Debbie Curtin who was a breast cancer survivor and had a lot of new ideas to make our event get better and better every year, became our Chairperson .In 2003 my daughter Sandy passed away and left a big hole in our organization and we vowed to work harder and harder so no one has to suffer like she did of cancer. Eventually we lost Debbie as well so I chaired the event every year until 2008.
Then Dr. Maria Amelia Rodrigues said she could relieve me of all the work and she tried and after that we were lucky to have Ann Kinstler chair the next 2 years. At our 14th and 15th year we had Lilia Garcia and Maureen Flanagan as Co-Chairs. In the last two years we had Vivien Knight and Doreen Ruggiero. At the present time we have Barbara Garcia and Lillian Villamizar as our Co-Chairs. We are expecting at least 500 in attendance and we now have 40 people on our committee and each one has a job. We also have 11 on our Executive Board and we are now a 501-3C organization. Yes, we have grown but it has taken a lot of volunteer hours to get here.
In our 18 years we have empowered, enlightened and given strength to many survivors. We all are willing to give of ourselves to make a difference in many lives.
If you would like to join us at our event or become a member of our committee please email us at: [email protected]