Jun 2015

Last Word

Written by

With Jill Dinwiddie

Local Community Issue most on your radar… Since I’m Chair of the Board of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, I have to say that women's access to affordable reproductive health care occupies some of my thinking each day. In tandem with this is the need for girls and young women to have access to reliable, comprehensive sex education so they grow up valuing their strengths and talents determined to protect their own bodies from unwanted advances by men.

Broader national/international issue most on your radar… Following this theme, the plight of young girls in so many parts of the world - acid throwing, bride burning, dowry death, honor killing, genital mutilation, female infanticide, child brides, human trafficking, sexual slavery and murder should make all of us grateful that we live in a country that has laws to protect us from most of these atrocities.

Local non-profit you will drop everything to help…I am over-committed to my community projects but in addition to Planned Parenthood, domestic violence remains a high priority for me.

Best party/event you’ve been to in the last year… The Library Foundation Verse and Vino.

Recent splurge you treated yourself to… A bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies.  I ration myself to no more than 2 per day.

Charlottean you’d like to see run for Mayor one day… Vi Lyles, although I'm hoping she'll run for the NC Assembly.

Best meal you’ve had in a while… Dinner at Fearrington House (near Chapel Hill).

Advice you’d give your younger self…Start preparing early to run for public office.  I almost ran for Congress when I lived in CA but lost my nerve after the barrage of press inquiries when I just picked up the application.  I hate that money is driving the election of our public officials and it's difficult to get smart, talented women to run for office.

A group of physicians from Carolinas HealthCare System(CHS) made an appearance in drag for the fourth-annual Stiletto Sprint at Symphony Park on September 20. They sprinted across a strip of concrete in honor of the ovarian cancer survivors on the sidelines. Dr. Robert Higgins, Associate Director of Gynecological Oncology at CHS, sported a purple body suit, a curly brunette wig, giant teal sunglasses and a fluffy teal boa. “It’s a real privilege to care for these women with ovarian cancer,” Higgins said.

“They are so courageous and they go through a lot of pain and suffering sometimes.” Dr. James Hall, Director of Gynecological Oncology at Levine Cancer Institute, sprinted in a tiara, a frizzy teal wig and matching gloves. “As evidenced by our heels and our outfits,” he said, “we’ll do anything for the cause—to raise awareness, to provide education and to help fund research. Given the publicity that breast cancer gets, it is important to remember my new mantra for gyn cancers, ‘without ovaries, there would be no tatas!’”

The Stiletto Sprint, presented by Bissell, featured a series of sprints but started slow and steady with a Survivor Walk. The morning raised $96,000 for the Carolinas Ovarian Cancer Fund at Levine Cancer Institute.

“Part of what we do here today is to make it so that other women don’t have to go through what we have gone through,” said Vicky Neer, a survivor. She is a member of the Teal Magnolias, the CHS ovarian cancer support group that established the Stiletto Sprint in 2011 to raise funds for ovarian cancer research—with an emphasis on developing early detection capabilities—while educating others about the disease.

“There is no test, there is no pap smear version for ovarian cancer,” Neer said.  As she and other survivors at the Stiletto Sprint stressed, ovarian cancer is difficult to catch early, as there are no early-detection devices and the symptoms often go unnoticed until the cancer has progressed. Those symptoms include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating, feeling full quickly, and urinary urgency or frequency.

“I’m here because of the luck of the calendar,” said Neer, whose cancer was caught when she went to a routine gynecological appointment.

As for the monthly meetings with the Teal Magnolias, she said, “The support in that room is incredible for women who are just diagnosed, for women who are going through treatment and for women who are in remission and can provide emotional support and information for the others.”

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2014 nearly 22,000 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. For about 14,200 women, that diagnosis will be fatal. The disease ranks No. 5 in female cancer deaths.

Emcee Maureen O’Boyle of WBTV said, “Levine Cancer Institute is working so hard… it is our effort that in the next five years we will have what we need to make everyone a survivor of ovarian cancer.”

Rendering courtesy of Michael Brousard in Louisiana. Charity Showcase image and preceding image courtesy of Kingswood Custom Homes.

Stucco veneer. Organic. Airy. These are the descriptors Brian Hedgepeth, purchasing and estimating manager for Kingswood Custom Homes,provided for the Dream Hometaking shape in The Palisades to raise funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Kingswood, founded in Charlotte by Peter Leeke in 1996, first built a St. Jude Charity Showhouse in 2007. The project raised about $125,000 for St. Jude through tours with entrance fees as well as fundraising events, with another showhouse raising about $280,000 in 2008. Now, in 2014, they are aiming for a fundraising amount of $750,000 with the Dream Home.

Kingswood’s creation is the first Dream Home in the Charlotte market, with recent changes in the state raffle law allowing the project to take shape. Up to 7,500 tickets will be sold for the home—valued at $450,000—for $100 per ticket.

The program “Dream Home is one of our most successful programs across the nation,” said Amy Costliow, event marketing representative for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Charlotte.

ALSAC stands for “American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities” and was founded to raise funds for the hospital as a show of support for St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, who was of Lebanese descent. Now there are nearly 40 field offices around the country raising funds for St. Jude and for Thomas’ dream: to make sure no child dies in the dawn of life. ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Charlotte focuses on fundraising, so children with deadly diseases can be treated—and, ideally, cured—for free.

The St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway is the reason 315 homes have been built in the U.S. to raise funds for St. Jude since 1991, bringing in over $230 million for the hospital, which advances cures and ways to prevent pediatric catastrophic diseases by way of research and treatment.

Similarly, the residence’s framework that is rising in The Palisades is a low- or no-cost home. Prompted by invitations from Kingswood to get involved, local vendors are donating labor and materials. That includes Paragon Landscape Management, which is providing a full landscape installation featuring irrigation, plants, sod and beyond. “When Kingswood approached us and asked us to be a part of it, we were pretty humbled,” said Kevin Harrison, co-owner of Paragon. “ … It’s a very unique way of donating and for us as a company, we really want to be a part of the community.”

“We’re starting to create connections,” Hedgepeth said. “The idea is to raise more money. The idea is not just about Charlotte, it’s about spreading this.”Kingswood’s Dream Home is one of more than 30 homes built as part of the giveaway around the country this year. Each home has a market value that ranges from $330,000 to over $1 million, and each home is constructed through donated products and services. Following the construction comes a campaign phase, during which the completed product is showcased for about six weeks with at least 5,000 visitors touring each space during that time. The campaign leads to a television special, when media sponsors around the country announce the winners of the houses and various other prizes valued at over $1,000 like fine jewelry, furniture and vehicles.

The dream behind the Dream Home

“We like to call ourselves a hospital without walls,” Costliow said of St. Jude. Though situated in Memphis, Tenn., the hospital shares its research freely, releasing publications for patients, families, outside research and clinical staff, volunteers and donors. Featured research includes genomic analysis of brain tumors and hematological malignancies, as well as advances in next-generation sequencing and development of novel analytical methods.

“The cure rates that we’ve seen the most success with is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) which is the most common form of childhood cancer,” Costliow said. “So when the hospital opened in 1962, four percent of children with ALL survived, and today, because of the research that happens at St. Jude, 94 percent of children survive. So hospitals all over the world have implemented our treatment plans and our protocols into their hospitals.”

As a medium for sharing the hospital’s mission, the giveaway program breaks down walls between the hospital and the community. “It’s a great community awareness builder for us, because it does allow us to partner with media,” Costliow said. The Charlotte affiliate, which reaches North and South Carolina, is partnered with WBTV. “It allows us to partner with a builder and the construction industry,” she said, “which is an industry that we naturally wouldn’t just tap into. So it really is able to broaden the base of people that we touch with our message.”

The local dreamers

“The goal is not just about selling tickets to make people more aware of St. Jude,” Hedgepeth said. “There is a local chapter here. There are people locally who need your support.”

“It costs $1.9 million every day to run St. Jude,” Costliow said. Those dollars support research, medications, transportation, food, housing and beyond. Those dollars support local families like the Hagens, whose son John was diagnosed with ALL.

Hagen was treated at St. Jude initially but is now able to get his medication administered locally by way of Levine Children’s Hospital. He still goes to Memphis every couple of months to meet with doctors and get scans. “That’s a perfect example of Danny Thomas’ dream coming true,” Costliow said. “… The hospital might not be in your backyard, but our research and treatment protocols are.”

The time frame
-- Kingswood broke ground on The Palisades property in January with a special ceremony and the presence of the Hagen family. “The main thing that all of our patient families want to get across is one ‘thank you,’” Costliow said.
-- Ticket sales go live July 9 and can be bought at www.dreamhome.org, by phone or at the Dream Home location, to be announced. That day will also bring a Sell-A-Thon on WBTV live. Advice from the Charlotte St. Jude affiliate: buy early and often, as there are only 7,500 tickets!
-- Open house weekends will last from September 6 to October 9, hosted by volunteers from the Epsilon Sigma Alpha sorority, which supports St. Jude across the nation. Information on St. Jude and the local vendors will be available.
-- The raffle will take place in the WBTV studio on live television on October 9. A CPA will draw the ticket from a gold raffle drum. Whoever the winners may be, in Charlotte and acrossthe U.S., Costliow said, “Their lives change and they are really impacted by this program beyond helping the kids of St. Jude.”

Local donors include:
Doggett Concrete
Moisture Loc
Locust Lumber
David Hensel Construction
West Norman Electric
Miller Contracting Services
Service Plumbing
Ferguson Enterprises
The Hogan Company
Jason Custom Wood Works
Care Free Carpet
4th Generation Weatherization
General Shale
Advanced Roofing
Pella Windows and Doors
ITC Millwork
Envision Millworks
Paragon Landscape Management

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