Gary Fialky says the American Cancer Society’s annual Omar T. Pace, M.D. Recognition Dinner was created more than a decade ago accomplish two important tasks.
The first, as the name implies, is to recognize those who have contributed in various ways to the fight against cancer and the work being done to assist all those impacted by it. The second is to raise money to continue and escalate that fight.
Both missions were accomplished at this year’s event, staged March 31 at Chez Josef in Agawam, said Fialky, chair of the dinner named after the noted cancer surgeon who lived and worked in the Springfield area and credited with saving hundreds of lives that might otherwise have been lost to the disease.
The award given in Pace’s name was presented to Emanuel “Manny” Rovithis, owner of Manny’s TV Appliance and a longtime supporter of the recognition dinner and its silent auction. Also honored with special recognition awards were:
- Pamela Fernandes, who has served as co-chair of the American Cancer Society’s signature activity, its annual 24-hour Relay for Life, for the pasty two years, and has been a longtime member of the society’s Daffodil Days Committee;
- Judith Fine, founder of the Gazebo in Northampton, which specializes in intimate apparel. Fine, who became a certified fitter for post-mastectomy patients in 1992, later started Gazebo’s Breast Form Fund, which helps uninsured and underinsured women obtain correct breast forms and foundations necessary to aid in their recovery from breast surgery; and
- Dr. Alicia Ross, medical director of the Hemotology/Oncology Service at Holyoke Medical Center for the past 30 years, and a longtime supporter of many ACS programs, including the Relay for Life. She also played an integral part in bringing the American Cancer Society’s Resource Center to Holyoke Medical Center, and currently serves as its medical advisor and also as a member of the Holyoke Mayor’s Crusade Against Cancer.
Perhaps more important than the awards was the money raised for ACS programs and services, said Fialki, noting that more than $67,000 was raised at the dinner through ticket sales, the silent auction, and ads in the program book.
Another $14,000 was raised specifically to sponsor weeks at Camp Rising Sun in Colebrook, Conn., where children with cancer can join in dozens of activities and, through their experiences and new friendships, feel more confident about living with cancer.
The total raised will buy weeks at the camp for seven youngsters, said Fialky, a past recipient of the Pace award who solicited donations from the audience in increments of $250 and $100 and was pleasantly surprised by the strong response.
“That was a true indication of the depth of the support of the people in this community,” he said. “Those donations came from the heart.”
Planning is already underway for the 2005 recognition dinner, which will include a number of new programs, said Fialky, who told The Healthcare News that the event has grown consistently over the years, and has become a strong complement to the Relay for Life, which has raised more than $250,000 in recent years, and the Daffodil Days program, which raises another $50,000.