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Bunny in the City: Olympic medalist inspires at cancer institute fundraiser

The Memorial Health Foundation hosted its “ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event” on Dec. 8 at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center.

 

Earlier this summer, I received an invite from Memorial’s magnificent media relations, Michael Notrica, and multiple follow-ups from development director Anne Cordeiro to attend a fundraiser that would help bring the newest da Vinci Surgery robot technologies to this world-class cancer center.

Arriving for the VIP reception and book signing downstairs at Tondee’s Tavern, I am greeted by lovely ladies Gay Triplett, Tina Webb and Ann Faulkner, wave at Foundation VP Phoenicia Miracle and set my camera up next to Olympic medalist Shannon Miller.

Exquisitely beautiful and dainty, I am towering over the cancer survivor while Jane Winters and Toby Hollenberg ask her to pause in signing books to pose for photo. Briefly explaining that I will be snapping pics of her with her fans, I step back and smile at the photo that reunites my dark-haired friends Jane and Toby.

At the table beside Shannon is elegant Libba Anderson. The honorary chair is looking fit and happy while chatting with Grateful Patient, Vivian Palefsky. As one of the four patients honored here today, the nurse navigator reversed roles and is radiating good health and gorgeous red hair!

Happy to see one of Memorial’s finest reaping the rewards from her own team, I pick up the pace and snap pics of John Burns, Tricia Howard and Tim Blackston, followed by Janet and Joseph Lane, then Grateful Patient Mike Cashwell with his wife Heather.

Slightly hesitant to talk, the Volvo leasing consultant tells me how a serious case of diverticulitis led to a colon cancer diagnosis in August 2015.

“Doctors Chris Haberman and Aaron Pederson started an aggressive chemo regime in October, finished radiation March 21 and I got the all clear on April 18. I’m just grateful to be here,” shares the truly thankful patient.

While introducing northern visitors Chris Sporcic and Brett Hoffacker to the “Face of United Community Bank” Gaye Reese, I explain that they could not be in better hands than with the social queen of banking.

Waiting in the book signing line are Grateful Patients Gary Exley and Libby Malphrus. As Libby explains that she is a gymnast, she tells me she and her daughter Grace really want a photo with Shannon. Consider it done!

Once again, Shannon graciously allows the photo request and so I grab the chance to snap a pic of her with Eric Meyerhoff with his 1996 Olympic Centennial Edition and then chat with the famous architect on developing River Street and the World War II Memorial opposite Whitaker Street.

Next, my Landings ladies, Marianne Sheldon, Terri Beam, Nancy Pavey, Becky Sallee and Nancy Harris, tell me they are here to support committee member Betty Stout while dapper-dressed Chris Elliot agrees to pose with Betty Cashwell and distinguished Dr. Fran Hoffman and his wife Thelma.

Born in Savannah in 1925, the ear, nose and throat doctor practiced until he was 79 years old, still reads three newspapers every day and may just be the most interesting man in the room, along with Eric. With a nod to his “friend for life,” nurse Betty Cashwell, I reluctantly finish my chat and wait to photograph Curtis and Libba Anderson with Shannon before the luncheon begins.

The Andersons have a true love story! Having met on the ski slopes out west, the couple continue to ski together and are headed to their Telluride Colorado home for the holidays. Threatening to crash their pad while checking out the Million Dollar Highway in Silverton, I laugh and grab my bag to head up to the ballroom for the luncheon.

With close to 400 enraptured supporters listening to every word of Shannon’s life as the most decorated gymnast in the Olympics, a member of “Magnificent Seven,” her role as a mom and health advocate, it is her story of struggle with cancer that causes her to pause.

Her “gold medal moments of living in the moment, taking the next step forward, releasing control and relying on my team” led her work for better cancer treatments and to “challenge each of you to make your health your priority. Do it today — you only get this one life.”

With an inspiring message from a world-class athlete to help the Destination Cancer Care campaign achieve its goal, I am praying that I never need to use The Anderson Cancer Institute, but am relieved to know we have the best the world has to offer right here at home!

 

Contact Bunny at 912-844-1122 or email bunnyware@aol.com.

Spotted®: The ACI Luncheon: A Gold Medal Event

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