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ACS Cancer Warriors Honored

Santa Clarita Unit of American Cancer Society recognizes volunteers

Posted: September 27, 2008 9:01 p.m.
Updated: November 29, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A record breaking year for the American Cancer Society Santa Clarita Unit brought dozens of attendees together to celebrate a year of success with a  with a festive evening of recognition and rewards Thursday at the Robinson Ranch Clubhouse in Sand Canyon.

Cheri Fleming, outgoing unit council president, enthusiastically recounted the year’s accomplishments which included:

n The unit reached more than 4,400 patients in the Santa Clarita and San Fernando Valleys with the units programs and services, including 1,400 newly diagnosed patients. This number exceeds by a 1,000 patients the goal set for the year.

n The unit’s Mission Support program “is thriving” with volunteer recruitment, orientation, proper training and placement. “The services we offer and our programs could not function without the strong foundation of volunteers,” Fleming said.

n The Daffodil Days team generated more than $40,000 through sales, sponsorship, and donations to the gift of hope program. The newly created “Gift of Hope Subcommittee” delivered more than 450 anonymous bouquets to cancer patients receiving treatment in Santa Clarita.

n Relay for Life included 109 teams that raised a record-breaking $561,000 and 401 participants enrolled in the CPS-3 Study (The American Cancer Society’s Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research is inviting men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 years who have no personal history of cancer to join a historic research study with a goal of enlisting 500,000 participants). The SCV Relay is at the top of the region, and is also the model for some best practices across the nation.

n The “Fight Back Express” bus, to arrive in Washington D.C. at the steps of the Capitol on election day, arrived in the SCV to collect signatures on petitions to present to Congress demanding more funding to cancer research.

“What a remarkable year we have had. These are just a few of the highlights from the year. We couldn’t possibly spotlight all of the wonderful accomplishments in just one evening.  But we want to give you a small snapshot of the great work that is done in our community each and every day,” Fleming said. “It is only with all of your support that we are able to accomplish everything we’ve done.”

Fleming said her mother died of cancer, as did husband Don Fleming’s mother.

“My involvement with the American Cancer Society is a no-brainer, however, each of us have our own story,” Fleming said. “We all know that we won’t be finished until we find a cure for this disease.”

The volunteer tributes began with the “Caring in Communication Awards” which were presented to The Signal, radio station KHTS and to Diana Sevanian, a former staff writer at The Signal, who continues to contribute columns to the newspaper and is an active volunteer with the ACS Santa Clarita Unit.

All three were lauded for their efforts to spread the message of the Cancer Society and the activities of the Santa Clarita Unit.

“We would like to especially highlight a few of those individuals who have gone above and beyond, and whose contributions have made a tremendous mark in helping us reach the goals and objectives for the year,” Fleming said.

The “Community Partnership Award” was presented to Providence Holy Cross Cancer Center by Nancy Coulter, past Unit council president and current Mission Support chairwoman.

“The American Cancer Society and Providence Holy Cross has developed an outstanding community partnership,” said Coulter. “Holy Cross has been a continued dedicated supporter and sponsor of Relay For Life and Daffodil Days Gift of Hope campaigns. This year, both the SCV and Mission Hills locations partnered with ACS to help improve the quality of life of survivors. Each site hosted beautiful survivor receptions, which included the release of doves. Holy Cross exceeded expectations this year by referring 237 patients to our organization. These efforts through the partnership of Providence Holy Cross Cancer have truly made a difference in the quality of life of our community of cancer patients.” 

Fleming returned to the podium to present the “Dare to Dream Award” to Darrellyn McCormick.

“The word ‘barrier’ isn’t in Darrellyn’s dictionary,” Fleming said. “Last year, Darrellyn brought her vision of Survivor Village to Relay For Life, and we knew that we were in for something we had never seen before. A cancer survivor herself, she knew the importance of making Survivor Village a place for all cancer survivors and their caretakers to be able to spend time together. She worked tirelessly to ensure that everything ran smoothly, and that our survivor participants knew just how important they were.”

Fleming said after Relay McCormick assisted with call backs to 59 newly diagnosed cancer patients, making sure they were connected to ACS services.

The “Heart and Soul Award” was presented by Coulter to Agnes Russell — an eight year volunteer for the American Cancer Society. Russell is also an eight year cancer survivor. Her involvement includes serving as an active member of the Unit Leadership Council, facilitator for Bosom Buddies support group, Relay For Life committee member, Relay For Life Team Captain, Daffodil Days committee member, health fair volunteer, Speakers Bureau representative, office volunteer and Tea for the Soul volunteer.

Rosalie Goldenberg was named “Office Volunteer of the Year” for her efforts at the Santa Clarita Unit where she volunteers two days a week.

“She helps to accomplish all the work behind the scenes, and does it quietly and efficiently,” Fleming said.

“The Outstanding Community Outreach Award” was presented by Coulter to Evelia Gandarilla. Gandarilla chaired the first Cancer Awareness Seminar to target the Hispanic/Latino Community in the SCV, Coulter said. 

“She enlisted a speaker, and provided Spanish translation, selected the venue, and took great effort in marketing the event. Her efforts resulted in a successful first year event,” she said.

The Daffodil Days Committee was named the “Outstanding Volunteer Team.” Members of the team included Diana Sevanian, Candy Spahr, Holly Feneht, Agnes Russell, Nancy Coulter, Ray Gray and Rosalie Goldenberg.

The “Patient Courage Award” was bestowed on Michael Barr by Coulter.

“Mike, as his friends knows him, is a compassionate and tender man who was diagnosed with throat cancer in November 2006 and has sole custody of this twin girls Kathie and Vickie,” Coulter said. “In 2008 Mike signed up to be a Road to Recovery volunteer driver.  Transporting cancer patients to their treatment with a ‘been there, done that’ attitude his calm, nonjudgmental and cheerfulness provides support and encouragement to patients, which is extremely comforting.  He is always eager to help and will do anything at a moment’s notice.”

Brian Afdahl and Nora Christie earned the “Relay for Life Outstanding Leadership Award.”

Afdahl earned the award for his work on the Relay logistics team in his first volunteer experience with the Cancer Society.

Christie organized the Survivor Breakfast and Relay Kickoff and found sponsors to underwrite the majority of the expense.

The “Special Recognition Award” was presented by Coulter to Donna Ashmore.

“Donna has been a long-time volunteer for the Society-serving nearly 20 years.  She has held just about every position available on both the local and regional levels,” Coulter said.

The “Youth Spirit Award” was presented to Canyon High School student D.J. Hamburger.

“He is always willing to do whatever it takes to get the mission of the American Cancer Society across to anyone around,” Fleming said.  “You might have seen him a few years back dressed as a carrot stressing the importance of nutrition to all who drove by. DJ also dressed as a cigarette wrapped in caution tape as part of a street corner campaign for Prop 86, Tobacco Tax initiative in 2006. He has also been actively involved with the Relay For Life for the past 3 years, lending a hand with Mission Delivery, and survivorship. This last year DJ was the president of the Canyon High School American Cancer Society Youth Club and a member of the Area A (Santa Clarita Valley & San Fernando Valley Units) Youth Leadership Council.”

Ruben Navarro earned “Rookie of the Year” honors for his efforts as a Road to Recovery volunteer driver and his work in support of the CPS-3 enrollment effort.

“He is a soft-spoken, generous hearted man who knows the importance of giving and receiving help at difficult times,” said Coulter. “Ruben is an example of model volunteer who steps right in the job, and does whatever is takes to make it successful.”

The final award of the evening was presented by Fleming to Candy Spahr who was named “Volunteer of the Year.”

“Candy’s name is synonymous with energy, efficiency, and creativity,” said Fleming. “As an exceptional volunteer who truly radiates the mission of the American Cancer Society in everything she does, she serves an extremely active role on the Santa Clarita Valley Unit Leadership Council, and also played a key role in this year’s Daffodil Days campaign. She is an innovative leader who is always up to the challenge no matter what that challenge may be. As one of the event chairpersons of the Relay For Life this year, she took a successful event and helped raise it to new heights and keeping the event’s expenses at under seven percent.”

Relay for Life event chairpersons Candy Spahr, Teresa Kerr and John Fortman were also recognized.
The evening event also included a slide show of memories from the past year and ended with a moment of silence in memory for those who died of cancer in the past year.

Spahr was introduced as the new Council president by Fleming who has helmed the organization for the past two years.

Fleming was lauded for her work and her passion for the cause by Spahr.

Coulter said the event theme of “television” was designed to encourage volunteers and supporters to “tune in” to the Cancer Society.

“If you’re not an active participant we’d love to have you be one” she said. “All you have to do is give us a call — we have any number of things we’d love to have you help us do. It’s just a really nice, nice organization, and very sincere that does a heck of a lot good.”

For more information about volunteer opportunities or support services contact the American Cancer Society Santa Clarita Unit (661) 298-0886 opt. 3.


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