Annual Spring Benefit Awards 2019

Each year at our Spring Benefit, we present awards to honor those who demonstrate dedication to our mission by providing inspiration, time, talent and other resources. This year’s Annual Spring Benefit is on April 26, 2019. We are proud to introduce you to our 2019 honorees!

Outstanding Achievement Award

Presented this year to recognize Barbara Cervoni for her 15 years of outstanding service, commitment and contributions to help us fulfill our mission.

Barbara Cervoni, Support Connection’s Director of Services and Communication

An integral member of Support Connection’s staff, Barbara oversees and manages our professional Peer Counselors, and our programs and services. She is also responsible for grant writing and for directing our communications and public relations. Barbara has secured hundreds of grants to help fund our free services. She continuously seeks innovative communication strategies to promote our services, programs and events. She effectively delivers the message that no one has to be alone with cancer.

Working on surveys, articles and other projects gives Barbara a chance to interact with people who’ve been helped by Support Connection’s services. Seeing this positive impact on people’s lives is not only gratifying for Barbara; it inspires her and helps her spread the word and seek support for our programs. Barbara’s belief in our mission deepened when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014: “I always knew our work was important, necessary, and unduplicated. Being diagnosed myself just brought that to life and magnified my understanding in a profoundly personal way.”

Barbara shares her feelings about this award: “I see the work I do every day and understand how important it is. I know the impact it has on those we serve, and that’s what really matters. However it very validating to have this recognized in such a public manner. I am truly gratified, honored and excited to receive this award.”

Maria Rubino Jennings Spirit of Caring Award

Presented in honor and memory of Maria who helped create Support Connection’s Peer Counseling program and other services. Like Maria, the recipients have made a positive difference in many lives through the power of caring. This year, we are presenting this award to our 6 volunteer support group facilitators:

Sue Anderson

Sue reached out to Support Connection in 2007 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. She soon joined our young women’s support group. Being with other women who had the same diagnosis, and were going through similar experiences, helped her get through her treatments. Because of the support she’d received, Sue became a volunteer support group facilitator in 2010. She currently leads two groups each month. Sue also volunteers at outreach events to share information about our services with the community, and helps to promote our Support-A-Walk.

Sue explains what being a facilitator means to her: “Being a facilitator is so rewarding. I have learned that being a survivor is a gift, along with an obligation to make someone else’s journey a little easier by returning all the love and support that was given to me. It is so important to pay it forward. Women need a place to go where they are comfortable to talk about cancer. A caring environment where they can laugh, cry, take off their wigs and feel comfortable talking about their fears and their journeys. It’s important that women know they are not alone, that they are strong, that they have someone who has their back. I am happy to help in any way I can.” 

Carine Castrigno

Carine connected with Support Connection in 2008 after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Although she is a professional counselor trained to find resources, she wasn’t prepared for the challenges her diagnosis presented. Carine reached out and quickly formed a bond with one of our Peer Counselors who helped her every step of the way. Carine wanted to give back to others, so in 2010 she began as a volunteer support group facilitator. She currently leads our monthly national toll-free telephone support group for women with advanced stage or metastatic breast cancer.

Carine says: “Being a facilitator gives me the opportunity…. to provide support, and get the opportunity to give back to others. This personal journey has brought me on a path I least expected. I was provided with the gift of friendship, support and knowledge. I feel God has enabled me to utilize my professional skills as a counselor to give back by helping others.”

Christine Dangers, Brewster, NY

Christine is a breast cancer survivor who turned to Support Connection in 2010 after completing her cancer treatments. As soon as she spoke with one of our Peer Counselors for the first time, Christine knew she found the place she needed to be. Talking to her counselor and attending support groups became a lifeline. Christine wanted to give back, so in 2017 she became a volunteer support group facilitator. She currently co-facilitates one group and is assisting in the development of a new group she will also co-facilitate. In addition, Christine volunteers at outreach events and as a Community Ambassador for our Annual Support-A-Walk.

Christine explains why she became a facilitator: “I reached a point where cancer and all it entails was not an overwhelming, take-over-every-minute-of-the-day terrifying nightmare it once had been. I realized that I was on the other side of it, that I had come through it, and that I was whole again, and very strong. I wanted to be there for other women going through it and help them see that they could do it too. I felt it was time to sit at that table and listen.”

Gwen Harding-Peets

Gwen is an ovarian cancer survivor who found Support Connection online in 2006. She reached out to us to connect with other survivors. Along with talking to one of our Peer Counselors, Gwen participated in our national toll-free telephone support group for women with ovarian cancer. Soon after that, she became a volunteer facilitator for the group and continues to do so today. Gwen is also a tremendous resource; she is very involved with ovarian cancer education and is always happy to share information about new advances in treatment. 

Gwen believes the telephone support group is invaluable. She shares what it means to her to be the facilitator: “So many women with ovarian cancer across the country are isolated, not knowing anyone else that can relate to what they are going through. The telephone support group is a god-send for women who can’t make it to a group meeting because they are too sick, they work and the times don’t work for them, they don’t have transportation, or even more likely – they don’t have a support group that meets anywhere near them. When I was diagnosed, I had my mother to lean on who had about a 3 year head start in dealing with her own diagnosis. Helping to keep the telephone support group alive and well is my way of paying it forward for all the support I had ready access to in my early days of dealing with this disease.”

Trish Illiano

Trish contacted Support Connection after being diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2001. She spoke with Maria Rubino Jennings, the person for whom this award is named. She also participated in our breast cancer support group in Carmel because she wanted to meet other women who had been through cancer. Trish felt great love and support and wanted to pay it forward. She has now been a volunteer facilitator for several years, facilitating our monthly support group at Putnam Hospital Center for women with breast and ovarian cancer. She also volunteers at our Annual Support-A-Walk and community outreach events.

Trish speaks about what she does in her role as a facilitator: “It is important to me for every woman to feel comfortable in expressing her fears, concerns, etc. and know that she is in a safe place. Everyone’s case is unique, but we all share the connection of having been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. It’s a club no one wants to join! Everyone deals with it in her own way, but I am glad to make myself available for anyone who wants to meet others who have ‘been there, done that’.”

Pat January

Pat is an ovarian cancer survivor who became involved with Support Connection in 2007 when she began participating in our national toll-free telephone support group for women with ovarian cancer. Pat found Support Connection after meeting Gwen Harding-Peets through their mutual involvement with SHARE. Gwen told Pat about our telephone support group, and the group became very meaningful to Pat, connecting her with others coping with ovarian cancer. As a result of the support she received from the group, Pat decided to become one of its co-facilitators. She continues co-facilitating the monthly group, offering support and hope to the women who participate. 

Pat shares her feelings about Support Connection and the support group she co-facilitates: “What I think is wonderful about Support Connection is how available support is for women when they are going through such a frightening diagnosis. Talking with someone who has been through a similar diagnosis is so uplifting.”

Spirit of Giving Award

Presented to those who give of themselves in extraordinary ways to further Support Connection’s mission.

Alan Bandes

Alan became involved with Support Connection in 2009 through his wife Susan, who utilized our services after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Alan has been instrumental in helping Support Connection meet the needs of men whose wives or partners have been diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer. He helped start “Wing Nite,” our program for men that have a spouse or partner currently dealing with breast, ovarian or gynecological cancer. He has facilitated this program since its inception in 2014. Alan’s giving doesn’t stop there: he also co-facilitates our program “Men’s Night Out: For Men Living With Loss,” for men who have lost a spouse or partner to breast, ovarian or gynecological cancer. In addition, Alan teaches a Tai Chi class for us, and he recently recorded a guided meditation for our website, which is a great tool for stress reduction. Alan donates his time for all of the programs.

Alan explains what motivates him: “I am motivated by the love I shared with Susan. My giving is just a way of thanking all the women of Support Connection for what they gave to us. I do get a lot of satisfaction in helping others when possible. So this is just part of who I am.”

Spirit of Hope Awards

Presented to individuals who offer inspiration to fellow cancer survivors. They have taken their own experiences and translated them into an opportunity to raise awareness about Support Connection’s mission. This year there are two recipients.

Ann Baker

Ann is an ovarian cancer survivor who was diagnosed in 2014. She first connected with Support Connection when a friend invited her to attend one of our support groups. In the years since, she has continued to participate in support groups, attend programs, and has a close relationship with her Peer Counselor. Ann shares her story and experiences so that others can learn about and benefit from our services. For our Annual Support-A-Walk last year, Ann formed a team she called “Ann’s Angels.” By reaching out to her friends and family, Ann helped raise over $3,000 for Support Connection while increasing awareness about our programs and services.

Ann shares how she feels about Support Connection: “Every time I call, the woman at the other end is very friendly and helpful. Support Connection offers many free programs that I have attended. I have stopped by to talk to Andrea and I feel so welcome. Everyone at Support Connection cares about me. They help me forget I have cancer.”

Mary Heagle

Mary is a breast cancer survivor who reached out to Support Connection after being diagnosed in 2006. Mary says she was helped by many of our services. She spoke with our Peer Counselors and attended wellness and educational programs. She was a regular support group participant, where she made friends she’s still in touch with today. Mary is always happy to share her story and offer encouragement to people dealing with breast and ovarian cancer. In 2018, Mary was a Walk Ambassador for our Annual Support-A-Walk. Her enthusiasm and outreach helped make the Walk a huge success. As a way to give back, Mary is a frequent Support Connection volunteer, helping out in any way she can.

Mary shares how she feels about Support Connection: “While I was dealing with breast cancer, the Peer Counselors gave me and my family an unending supply of support, hope, empathy, strength, love, and kindness. I call them my guardian angels. Along with the many women in my support group, they were lifesaving to me.”

Spirit Of Philanthropy Award

Presented to those who demonstrate exceptional generosity and civic responsibility through contributions to Support Connection of time, effort, and resources.

Soul Ryeders

SOUL RYEDERS is a volunteer driven charitable organization in Rye, NY that was established in 2009. Their mission is to empower those in their community who are affected by all types of cancer. From diagnosis through treatment, recovery and survivorship, they offer practical resources and nurturing support services that provide dignity, confidence, hope, and compassion. They also award grants to organizations that offer support to people with cancer. Since 2011, SOUL RYEDERS has donated nearly $100,000 to Support Connection. The grants they have awarded help fund our One-on-One Peer Counseling Program, and our Ongoing Support Programs for Men (Wing Nite: For Men Only and Men’s Night Out: Living With Loss.) This financial support has helped Support Connection deliver vital services to women, their families and friends.

Sandy Samberg, SOUL RYEDERS Executive Director, says: “It is an honor to receive the 2019 Spirit of Philanthropy award from an organization that we hold in such high regard. Our collaboration with Support Connection has been extremely valuable as we fulfill our mission of providing practical resources and emotional support to community members affected by cancer. Being able to refer clients to Support Connection for individualized support has enabled us to tap into a network of professionals who make a significant impact on the lives of our clients. We are always confident that we are putting them in good hands! We’ve also been pleased to partner with Support Connection for its men’s program which addresses important needs for men who have a partner with breast or ovarian cancer or who have lost a partner to one of these diseases. It is touching that Support Connection selected our organization as the recipient of this year’s award.”

Learn all about the 2019 Spring Benefit here.

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