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Tea, entertainment and hope

n It’s a sellout for the fifth annual Circle of Hope Theatrical Tea

Posted: September 20, 2008 9:12 p.m.
Updated: November 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Guests at the "Pirates of Penzance" table break into song at the annual Circle of Hope Theaterical Tea.

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It was a weekend where iced tea might have been more appropriate than steaming Earl Grey, but two days of sold out crowds didn’t seem to mind the warm weather at the fifth annual Circle of Hope Theatrical Tea.

The annual fundraiser for the grassroots breast cancer support group founded by breast cancer survivor Colleen Shaffer attracted 180 guests to enjoy an English “tea” service and entertainment in the lush garden of Shaffer’s Newhall home.

“We sold out remarkably early this year so we are considering a larger venue next year,” said Jordana Capra, a Circle of Hope board member.

The theme of this year’s tea, held on both Saturday and Sunday, was “A Tribute to English Musicals” with each table paying homage to a different musical.

Pam Koch and Capra worked together on the theme, said Koch.

“People worked very hard on their tables,” said Koch.

The tables, set up under tents, were intricately decorated with hanging chandeliers and included handmade “fans” with song lyrics, china teacups and plates and other themed elements to reflect each table’s assigned musical.

Members of the “Angels of Hope” fundraising arm of Circle of Hope each adopted a table and were responsible for its decoration.

Table themes and sponsors were: “Encore” by Noli Wiesen and Patty Quashen; “Oliver!” by Pam Koch; “Finian’s Rainbow” by Colleen Shaffer; “My Fair Lady” by Wanda Tuttle and Colleen Shaffer; “Pirates of Penzance” by Stella Macy and Judy Janusek; “Mary Poppins” by Jan Schelling and Allyson Thurston; “Mamma Mia!” by Pamela Glavis; “Brigadoon” by Jo Anne Jones; “Camelot” by Geneva Knoles and Mary Petersen and “A Christmas Carol” by Geneva Knoles and Pam Koch.

Laird Stuart, master of ceremonies, made the inclusion of the “Mamma Mia!” table — a musical set in Greece to the music of the Swedish pop band ABBA — a running joke throughout the day.

Volunteer servers, recruited by Capra, an acting coach and teacher, bustled about serving tea, water and plates of beautifully prepared food. The menu included scones, pumpkin muffins, banana chocolate chip bread, homemade apricot and plum jams, lemon curd and clotted cream as well as turkey croissants, veggie wraps, cucumber sandwiches, chocolate raspberry whoopee pies, pecan tassies and other goodies. The formally clad servers included Lorraine Clarke, Suzanne DeCarion, Sarah Geneieve Green, David Mucha, Jan Seedman, Rory Coyle, Jennifer Ann Evans, Ken Hurst, Monroe Makowsky, Darrell Philip and Lee Southard.

“I was recruited by Jordana, a very dear friend of mine, to help at this event,” said Makowsky, a five-year veteran of the tea. “I love it, I was in the service industry for a million years so serving just eight people is a vacation.”

Shaffer, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, founded Circle of Hope in 2004.

“I founded Circle of Hope because I found so many people having trouble focusing on getting well because of the bills associated with their illness,” Shaffer said. “Costs can run up to $200,000 per year for breast cancer treatment.

Insurance rates and medicines are going up. Survivorship is expensive. We provide hope so patients can focus on recovery, not debt.”

After undergoing a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation Shaffer’s cancer went into a 3-year remission. However, her cancer returned in 2002 as metastatic breast cancer and spread to her liver, spine and hips. She was given six months to live.

“I made a choice based on my belief that in every crisis lies an opportunity — and the “Angel of Hope” was born. I dressed up in a pink satin gown, with a pink wig and glowing pink wings and I began a new life, determined to show that breast cancer, even at the metastatic stage, is not a death sentence,” Shaffer said. “Metastatic breast cancer nowadays should be viewed as a chronic disease amenable to treatment with new treatments developed all the time. I celebrate more than seven years with ‘mets,’ but I will be on chemo for life.”

Recent breast cancer patient Desiree Babin of Saugus, and a client of Circle of Hope, told the audience that she is very grateful for the help she has received.

“In April I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Circle of Hope has been wonderful,” she said. “It’s been a hard couple of months. I just finished my chemo. I start my radiation this week. I’ve not been able to work and it’s been very hard on me ... without the financial help of Circle of Hope and Colleen I wouldn’t be standing here now. I don’t know where I’d be.”

Other fundraising efforts at the event included a silent auction and raffle. Linda Erenberg donated chair massages and Cypher was on hand to do Angel Card readings. Guests were also offered professional photographs by Lori Murphy.

The afternoon’s entertainment, coordinated by Judith Poppe, included songs from the various musicals including “Consider Yourself,” “Where is Love,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “On the Street Where You Live” and other popular favorites. The vocal talent was supplied by Jonathan Engstrom, Cindy White, Richard Smykle, Becky Hasquet and Steven Rivas.

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