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Imagine — More Birthdays! gala

Awards: American Cancer Society presents trio of awards at annual event

Posted: August 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Left to right, Don and Cheri Fleming, 2010 Legacy of Hope award recipients, presented the 2011 Leadership in Community Service award to Linda and Moe Hafizi at the third annual Legacy of Hope Gala held at Robinson Ranch Golf Club. Event chairwoman Janine Jones stands in the background.

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The theme was Imagine — More Birthdays! as members from the Santa Clarita Valley Unit of the American Cancer Society gathered to honor community members at a recent gala held at Robinson Ranch Golf Club.

It was a party like few others at the third annual Legacy of Hope Gala that featured tiers and tiers of cupcakes, birthday cakes, balloons, party favors, awards and lots of tears and laughter.

The event honored community leaders who provide critical support for cancer research, education and patient- services programs.

The 2011 honorees for the Legacy of Hope Award were Linda and Moe Hafizi, the doctors and staff of Vantage Oncology and Judith Harris, M.A., MFT.

VIP Reception
The evening began with more than 300 guests gathered on the terrace overlooking the golf course for a drinks and hors d’oeuvre reception with the honorees.

While the Fourth Element played light jazz, guests perused tables bursting with silent-auction items in support of local programs and services of the American Cancer Society.

Before the awards ceremony was held, local members of the Dance Experience and current members of the Santa Clarita Stars Junior National Dance Team performed a dance appropriately called “Tea Party.”

Janine Jones, American Cancer Society volunteer and event chairwoman, said the funds raised, estimated to be about $80,000 for the evening, would contribute to outreach programs for patients in the SCV and San Fernando valleys.

Jones reminded attendees cancer touches everyone’s lives, but there will be 11 million survivors this year.

“Although times change, our bottom line never will,” Jones said. “The society saves lives. We know that every extra year of life, every milestone like a birthday, a graduation, a wedding, a new baby, is cause for celebration.”

Moe and Linda Hafizi
“When deciding on the recipients for the Legacy of Hope awards, our selection panel took a close look at physicians and community leaders, and how they support the American Cancer Society,” Jones said.

Two of the 2011 honorees for the Legacy of Hope Award — Linda and Moe Hafizi — were honored for their  community-awareness efforts.

Don and Cheri Fleming, 2010 Legacy of Hope recipients, presented the Leadership in Community Service award to the Hafizis.

A cancer survivor, Linda Hafizi said she is acutely aware of the impact of the disease and the supportive programs and services of the American Cancer Society.

“Cancer took both of our mothers; cancer touches everyone in the room,” she said. “Which is why I am happy to deliver the American Cancer Society message to every household in the SCV.”

Vantage Oncology
Roger Seaver, CEO of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, presented the Legacy of Hope award for Leadership in Health Care to the staff and doctors of Vantage Oncology.

Honored were Drs. Marc Botnick, Nancy Ellerbroek, Linas Kazlauskas, Bernard Lewinsky, Paul Song, and Robert Zimmerman and their staff from the San Fernando and Santa Clarita offices who were recognized for their efforts to ensure cancer patients have access to life-saving and life-enhancing services to create a world with more birthdays.

Jane Bettencourt-Soto, an American Cancer Society volunteer and chairwoman of the production for the gala, spoke honestly and eloquently about being a caregiver for her friend Nick Rose. She had high praise for the caring and personal help they received from Vantage Oncology.

Judith Harris
Judith Harris, M.A., MFT, for her many years of Mission Support.

Nancy Coulter, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Leadership Council for the ACS-SCV, presented Harris with the Award of Distinction for her many years of service to the community.

Harris is a psychotherapist who utilizes the healing power of humor in her work and on her website, www.SufferinginStyle.com.

A 15-year cancer survivor, Harris has frequently been a volunteer and ally to the American Cancer Society — SCV Unit.
She wrote a chapter, “Becoming Strong at the Broken Places,” in Dr. Gregory Senofsky’s book, “A Patient’s Guide to Outstanding Breast Cancer Care.”

“We have a choice every day in what we focus on,” Harris said. “The tree of sorrows usually takes over our own troubles, lucky, lucky you to only have your own troubles.”

Tributes and tears
Toward the end of the evening, 16-year-old Brittany Magno, who attended with her parents, Elm and Cheryl Magno, related how the American Cancer Society helped her get through a devastating diagnosis of brain cancer when she was 11.

In 2007, Brittany underwent surgery to remove a large brain tumor that left her sensitive to sound, light and temperature.

It took her entire family much patience and dedication to help her recover while she held a 3.7 GPA. Now a junior at Canyon High School, Magno holds a 3.0-plus GPA and participates in the varsity cheerleading squad.

Not bad for a cancer patient who was so sensitive she could not tolerate loud talking, music, light and had to have the temperature in her home held at a toasty 86 degrees “24 hours a day,” she said.

Magno said when she was first diagnosed with cancer, it was Heather Warrick of the American Cancer Society who helped her find a wig that fit after her chemotherapy.

With Warrick’s encouragement, she formed the Brittany Brigade for Relay for Life with the goal of raising $5,000, but came just $22 short of raising $8,000.

“We wanted to make a difference,” she said.

The audience was clearly moved by Brittany’s testimony to the love and care that she received from the SCV Unit.

“Brittany is an inspiration to the entire community,” said Ed Masterson, emcee for the evening. “This is the second time I have seen her speak, and she is one of the most composed and inspirational young people I know.”

For information about the American Cancer Society SCV Unit call (800) 227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.

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