This past Saturday night, at the Robert J. Collins Arena at Brookdale Community College, about 350 local “New Jersians” gathered to raise money to support our brothers and sisters affected by cancer. The event dubbed “The Beauty Ball” was an annual event presented by The Beauty Foundation, a local organization whose mission is to alleviate the physical, emotional and financial strains that cancer treatment places on families. I, for one, am one of those people they helped.
What I feel is so important about The Beauty Foundation is, well first of all, they are local. Secondly, as I was applying to various organizations for support, the application processes were so tedious and, well, quite invasive. I had two national organizations ask me for my last three tax returns. Like, I wasn’t under enough stress? Local foundations, like The Beauty Foundation, are much more “people-centered”. Yes, you need to fill out an application and give some financial information. However, not so much that you feel like you have to “sell” yourself to them. It’s such a difficult time, who needs more headaches.
The Beauty Ball is where our community gathers to not only raise the funds to help those afflicted, but to honor the philanthropists, survivors and clinicians who have made their mark in the trying world of oncology. This year’s Diamond Award of Philanthropy went to Paul Sansone, Sr. Yes, the man behind the name you hear on the radio all the time for the car commercials. Well, now you can feel good knowing where he chooses to donate money. Mr. Sansone is a very generous philanthropist to many other organizations as well. This Jersey Boy worked his way up from his uncle’s used car lot and now sells over 12,000 cars per year.
This year’s recipient of the Peter Criss Courage Award (yes, Peter Criss of KISS, he is a breast cancer survivor, as well), was Susan Villapiano. Susan is a Rumson, NJ resident who has been involved in many charities and even patented a medical device for infusion therapies. She is currently in her second battle with breast cancer which has fueled her fire to continue her fight for emerging science breakthroughs and empowering others through nutritional education. She is a former board member for the Breast Cancer Research Advisory Board. Courage epitomizes this amazing woman. Please send your healing love and light to her and her family.
So back to “The Ball”! The amazing co-chairs of the event, Carla Scarabino, Lori Ceraolo and Krista Olsen-Dibsie put their heart and soul into this event and it showed. Every detail of the event was absolutely beautiful. The guests were asked to dress in black and white “chic” cocktail attire. I saw it as an opportunity to break out the old jumpsuit that I have worn a hundred times….this time being very different with my new “girls”…oh and a big ol’ scar across my back. Hmmm. Well, if I was going to debut my new look, this was the place to do it. Everyone there knew all too well the trials and tribulations of cancer. Who hasn’t known a family member, friend, co-worker afflicted with the disease? It is an epidemic that is mind-boggling.
The highlight of my evening was being given an opportunity to speak with a past honoree, Rebecca Leifert. At first I was taken aback because, well, Rebecca is so young. The year she was honored, she wasn’t able to attend the ball because she was so ill. Rebecca was diagnosed when she was finishing high school and preparing for college. Being a very shy teenager as it was made it even more difficult for her to muster up the strength to attend classes. However, she tried, but illness got the best of her and most of her studies required her to complete them online. Thank God for technology. But there’s no stopping this young lady now. She was escorted by her Aunt Beth, a huge part of her support team. Rebecca and her aunt told me how they relied on humor and “inside jokes” among the family to rally together through her journey that almost took her life. Particularly at a very difficult time, when Rebecca was receiving stem cell treatments, she really struggled to make it through. But, as I always tell my patients, there’s a point where cancer just becomes so ridiculous, it’s actually FUNNY! So when family came to visit Rebecca and couldn’t help but notice how much she smelled like creamed corn (from the preservative used in the treatment), the big joke became about not Rebecca’s “strength” but about her “stench”! Oh they’ll never look at creamed corn the same way again.
As I was talking to Rebecca, I realized that rather than feel bad for her, I was actually…well, jealous! At her age, she has such an amazing perspective on life given her experience. When I was her age I was narcissistic, neurotic, dramatic, insecure, selfish…basically everything most young 20-somethings embody. Not Rebecca. She’s got no time for drama. She’s ready to take on the world appreciating every bit of life.
So in conclusion, I am so proud to support The Beauty Foundation in any way I can. I met Carla at her home and it was as if I knew her forever. I distinctly remember I was on a time crunch, but I wanted to stay and talk to her all day. And if I can pay it forward, well then it’s a win-win all around.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the ball early because I started to fatigue and feel pain in my back and legs. I’m nowhere near 100%.
Sooooo…I look forward to next year’s Beauty Ball as a goal for myself. I am seeing it as an opportunity where I will present myself 100% healthy and thriving. I look forward to celebrating with the community of supporters and having the endurance to make it through the entire event.
Oh and yes, there will be dancing!