“A bunch of Italian women who don’t want to run out of food”: Friends hold benefit for cancer fight
by David Amato
Jul 10, 2014 | 4724 views | 0 0 comments | 160 160 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- Old friends will gather at the Dover Town Hall next Wednesday for a homemade Italian meal.  Among them will be Kelly Pawlak, Gale Palladino, Patty Santoro, Gina Sarlo, and Suzanne Bauer.  They have known each other since the ‘80s, when they moved to Dover to work at Mount Snow.  They call themselves the “Brat Pack,” a group of friends who have stood by one another for decades.  They have worked together, raised children together, vacationed together, and struggled together.

This will be no exclusive meal; the doors will be open to anyone who wishes to attend.  This meal—along with an auction and a raffle—is for Bauer, who was diagnosed with cancer in February when doctors discovered a tumor in her brain.  

Since then she has undergone radiation and chemotherapy treatment in Albany, an exhausting and financially draining process.  As a result of the cancer, she has not been able to work for five months, and her bills have piled high.

“I haven’t had an income since March to pay any kind of bills,” she says.  “I was working at Swan Electric until this happened, but now I can’t work for a year.  You have to wait five months until you get any kind of Social Security or disability. I’ll qualify in August, but I won’t get paid until September.”

Her friends have anchored a network of support that extends throughout the valley.  They have offered her financial support but also encouraged other members of the community to do the same, setting up an account at Merchants Bank specifically to help Bauer take care of her expenses.  Anyone can donate money into the account, and many already have.  “It’s been overwhelming how many people have helped me out,” says Bauer.  “It’s really to help me support myself and my daughter and son,” Brendan, 21, and Mallory, 14.

Bauer says she has always considered her community a generous one, “but it’s not until it’s for you that you really feel the brunt of it.”

Recently, Pawlak and a few friends sat down with Suzanne and worked out a plan for a benefit, says Pawlak.  They came up with the idea of an Italian dinner, a raffle, and an auction, all hinging on the generosity of the community.  Their planning will come to fruition next week, at the Dover Town Hall, where anyone is welcome to enjoy the food and bid on items collected (and continuing to be collected) for a raffle and auction.  The event has no cover charge; attendees are encouraged to donate as much as they feel comfortable.

Pawlak and the other organizers put out a call for donations and attendance largely through Facebook.  “It’s an interesting story about the power of social media,” says Pawlak.  “We thought we were going to have to go door to door, and we did do some of that, but we also created a Facebook event.  One by one, people started to private message me, volunteering to donate.”  

Thus far, 77 people have indicated on the event page that they will attend, while Pawlak has been keeping track of the non-Facebook users also planning to be there.

Most of the items to be auctioned were collected as a result of Facebook activity.  “People from the community have supplied things for the auction,” says Pawlak.  “People who know Suzanne, people who don’t, people who worked at Mount Snow years ago, people from her high school in Connecticut,” all offered up items for the benefit.

The donations of time and items poured in: gift baskets, restaurant certificates, coffee makers, artwork, dogsitting coupons, men’s watches, wind chimes, Rachael Ray cooking supplies, a Timber Creek cross-country ski pass, a manicure-pedicure from Michelle Cassese, a week at a Florida condo, a season pass to Mount Snow.  

“We have no fundraising goal,” says Pawlak. “We have no idea what this will generate.  We’re just hoping that when it’s all said and done Suzanne can relax on her bills for a few months.  Our goal is to give her a hunk of money so that she can pay her bills that we’re all stressed about.”

Pawlak says that every night, she checks Facebook to find more and more messages from people interested in donating to the benefit.  And every night she takes to the event page to thank everyone for their support.

Doors will open Wednesday, July 16, at the Dover Town Hall at 5:30 pm.  Facebook users can find the benefit’s event page by searching “Fundraiser for Suzanne” in their Facebook search bar.  To donate items readers can also contact Pawlak at (802) 464-4119; Palladino at (802) 464-7141; or Sarlo at (802) 464-4148.

“We’re cooking for 200,” says Pawlak.  “It’s a bunch of Italian women who don’t want to run out of food.  All we have to do is show up and cook our little hearts out.”

“I’m just so touched by what people have done,” says Bauer.
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