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Purses raise cash for cancer awareness

May 03, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- After being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2008, Earlene Fahey of Hagerstown underwent a lumpectomy and twice-daily radiation.

Now fully recovered, the 74-year-old says she wants to help Breast Cancer Awareness of Cumberland Valley, which supported her during and after her treatment. Fahey attended the fifth annual Purse-on to Person Fighting Breast Cancer event Sunday at the Clarion Hotel to raise money for the group. About 530 people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by Alpha Sigma Chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha.

Joan Fell, executive director of Breast Cancer Awareness, said 300 purses, each with its own theme, were being auctioned off Sunday, with minimum bids starting at $10. The purses are filled with jewelry, trips to Florida and other items, and one purse last year sold for $3,000, Fell said.

In the past four years, $173,000 has been raised at the purse event, said Colette Rupert, president of the Alpha Sigma Chapter. She said all the money raised goes back into local support for women battling breast cancer.

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Fahey said she received books, gifts and a pillow while she was recovering. She also received cards with notes of support from other breast cancer survivors.

"It made you feel good, getting a card from a person who went through that," she said. "So many people really care."

Darlene Polen, 59, of Falling Waters, W.Va., was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, and had a partial mastectomy five years ago. After going through surgery, Polen said she took advantage of some of the support groups available through Breast Cancer Awareness.

She's now starting to volunteer for the organization and attended Sunday's fundraiser with her husband, David Polen.

Kathy Brody of Williamsport is a 13-year survivor of stage-four breast cancer, the most invasive type. She's now secretary of a local Breast Cancer Awareness chapter. She said much of the money raised Sunday will go to support the group's free mammogram and other methods of early detection for breast cancer.

Mindy Marsden of Hagerstown is a five-year breast cancer survivor and president of the Cumberland Valley chapter of Breast Cancer Awareness. She said the group spent $112,000 last year on free mammograms for women who needed them. In the first three months of this year, the group already has spent one-third of last year's total, as more women have requested the service, Marsden said.

Brody said the organization also will help breast cancer patients who are struggling to pay their bills as they are out of work undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments.

She said all the bags auctioned Sunday were donated by local businesses or individuals, and the economic recession did not appear to have an effect on attendance or bidding.

"It's a unique (event)," Brody said. "And it's a great cause."

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