Weston natives 'Show' support for cancer patients with unique event
When Weston native Kate Kelley began volunteering at the American Cancer Society's HopeLodge in New York City, she was hooked. Then, the organization asked her to help raise funds for the temporary housing used by cancer patients being treated at city hospitals.
But her efforts took on a scope far more than expected.
The result: ShowHope, a dinner, dance and silent auction for young professionals in the New York City and tri-state region looking to give back. Now in its second year, the event will be held at 8 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Cassa Hotel and Residences. Tickets are available at www.showhopenyc.org.
Kelley, who had been volunteering at the Jerome L. Greene Family Center HopeLodge for a year-and-a-half, teamed with her sister and fellow Weston High School graduate, Mary Beth, and seven friends from the city last July to begin the charity fundraiser.
"We realized we all have these skills sets that people pay a lot of money for," said Kate Kelley, who graduated from Weston High School in 1998. Her sister graduated in 1991.
So, they decided to use those talents to help a worthy cause.
While HopeLodge, which has 30 locations around the nation, is associated with the American Cancer Society, it does not benefit from funds donated to the ACS. Instead, it has to support itself through its own fundraising. It costs $100,000 a month to run the hotel-like facility located in the heart of New York on 125 West 31st St. Built like a "$300-a-night hotel," according to the Kelleys, it offers patients special programs, such as yoga, to help ease the pain of treatment.
"HopeLodge is a special place," Kate said. "It welcomes people with every kind of cancer, from all over the country and beyond. In these trying times, to know that people can receive the great treatment that are in my backyard and stay for free is wonderful."
Kate said she learned about HopeLodge nearly two years ago when talking to a friend at a bridal shower about the lack of places for young people in the city to volunteer, especially on weekends and after work. She began volunteering by going in and doing administrative work, giving tours, checking-in new residents and spending time with them, playing board games or talking.
"I met a mother and daughter from California. The daughter, Paula, had cancer and her mother came to the HopeLodge with her as a caretaker," Kate said. "She found out while she was there that she had cancer. Paula survived, but her mother ended up dying. They really touched me."
Heart-wrenching stories like that, the Kelleys said, pushed them to make the ShowHope work.
Last October, the ShowHope group hosted its first event, even though there was little time to plan it. The group met on Kate's roof deck, shared a bottle of wine and brainstormed long enough to make sure everything worked perfectly. The event ran almost without a hitch and $50,000 was raised, the Kelleys said.
They had a little help from the Showtime television network, a client of the marketing company Kate works for. Showtime donated its $25 million, themed-penthouse, ShowHome, for the charity to use. This year's event will also be hosted in the ShowHome, which is now located on the top three floors of the Cassa Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Mary Beth, who works for Liz Claiborne, used her connections in the fashion and entertainment industries to put together a silent auction.
"Last year, with the silent auction, we were starting from scratch, but we made a real push and it went well," said she said. "This year it wasn't a breeze, but it was easier and we have some great items." ShowHope will be using an online company called Charity Buzz to broadcast the silent auction across the Internet, allowing those not in attendance to participate.
Mary Beth said anyone who would like to donate items to the auction, can do so at www.showhopenyc.org.
With a year under their belts, the ShowHope crew hopes for even more success.
"Raising awareness is important," Mary Beth Kelley said.
Her sister, Kate, agreed. "We want the brand to continue to build, because that's what it has become, more than just an event, it is a brand. Every person who is involved is raising awareness. We want to have a third, a fourth, a fifth and a sixth ShowHope."