HOBART — After a year's absence, the Pink Ribbon Society's annual Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon was back in business on Sunday.
Ann M. Peters, president and founder of the Pink Ribbon Society, wore a pink dress and a big smile as she welcomed some 400 attendees to the event held at the Avalon Manor Banquet Center.
"Hello, welcome back. We lost a whole year. I'm glad to be here and to see so many familiar faces and new faces. Thanks for your support," Peters said.
The Pink Ribbon Society, founded in 2001, is an organization that helps promote breast cancer awareness.
The organization serves men and women in Lake, Porter and Newton counties whose lives have been touched by breast cancer.
Peters said not being able to hold the luncheon, one of the group's major fundraisers, last year put a serious dent on the organization's bottom line.
"It was touch and go. We didn't know if we would make it another year," Peters said.
Peters said the organization was able to collect some $20,000 in funds from a fundraiser called SOS or Save Our Society while an additional $10,000 was received from Go Fund Me.
The majority of the donations received by the organization came from the community and businesses.
"We were allowed to keep our doors open. The community and the local businesses stepped up and took care of us," Peters said.
Peters herself is a breast cancer survivor having discovered a lump in her breast in 1977 which was diagnosed as stage 2 metastatic breast cancer.
It was sometime after her recovery that Peters came up with the idea for the Pink Ribbon Society.
"I had to do something, just paying my dues," Peters said.
Maura Rowley, who served as the event's master of ceremonies, thanked those who came to the luncheon which featured pink-colored table decorations and many attendees dressed in pink.
"This is our 20th anniversary. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve the community. Without your support we wouldn't be able to do so," Rowley said.
Rowley said all funds raised stay in Lake, Porter and Newton counties.
To date $650,000 has been raised by the non-profit organization.
Tom Schager, general manager for the Times Media Company, praised the work of Peters and her "energy and passion" that brought everyone to the luncheon.
"We will do everything we can to bring awareness and to lend our support," Schager said.
New at this year's luncheon was the presentation of the Dorothy Marie Gillespie Humanitarian Award.
Gillespie, who died of COVID-19 in December, was remembered for her civic mindedness that kept her engaged in many breast cancer-related projects.
Her own lumpectomy and treatment in 1987 became the catalyst to her involvement in the support of breast cancer patients.
Gillespie, a longtime nurse, served as an Open-Door support group coordinator for Y-Me National Breast Cancer through Munster Community Hospital from 1990 to 2012.
"Her generosity and passion is evident in all she did. Her life's work aligned so closely with the Pink Ribbon Society," said Janice Ryba, CEO at St. Mary Medical Center.
Gillespie's family accepted the award on her behalf.
Also honored were the 12 cancer survivors who are featured in the Pink Ribbon Society 2022 calendar — each month featuring the honoree's story.
The honorees are: Margaret Ann Clark, Ms. January; Mary Ann Hoogeveen, Ms. February; Becky Strotman, Ms. March; Sharon L. Bailey, Ms. April; Teresa Cruz, Ms. May; Megan Summers, Ms. June; Laura M. Myszak-Wolfe, Ms. July; Shatondria (Tonya) Anderson, Ms. August; Grace Hughes, Ms. September; Jeannette Jennings, Ms. October; Teresa Gesiakowski, Ms. November and Charlet Rosta, Ms. December.
In addition, 17 Celebrity Servers, prominent community leaders/volunteers, also were paired with experienced Avalon staff members to serve lunch to the attendees.