In early March, Absecon Community Affairs Committee member Joann Elco reached out to local media outlets to ask the community for help in financing the purchase of a bench honoring breast cancer victims and survivors to be placed at Heritage Park.
Knowing the giving spirit of her community, Elco expected the effort would quickly be funded. But when the group reached - and surpassed - its goal of $800 in less than a week, even Elco was surprised.
"We were extremely pleased," said Elco, who chaired the bench project. "We had such wonderful, positive comments."
Elco got the idea to purchase the bench when she visited the booth of the company from which they purchased the bench, Boyce Associates, at a landscape and architecture convention in Atlantic City. She brought the idea to the committee, made up of Kim Horton, Aileen Day, herself, Butch Stewart and Caleb Cavileer, all of whom signed off on the project.
The bench, painted pink and affixed with a plaque reading, "For all those affected by breast cancer, Absecon cares," was placed in Heritage Park in late May and dedicated in a small ceremony May 29 at City Hall.
Lauren Ochs, assistant vice president of oncology, women's and children's services at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, was the guest speaker at the event, discussing with the crowd the importance of getting tested for breast cancer early and often.
About 30 people, some of whom donated to help fund the bench, attended the dedication ceremony. Elco said she believes its the widespread impact of breast cancer that motivated the committee and the Absecon community to make the project a reality.
"We know so many cancer victims, and it's close to our hearts," Elco said. "We thought it would be a nice tribute to our residents."
Boyce Associates donated $50 of the purchase price of the bench to Gilda's Club, and the approximately $200 the group raised in excess of its goal also was donated to the organization.
Wendie Fitzgerald, of Absecon, was one of those who both donated and attended the dedication ceremony. While Fitzgerald is not herself a breast cancer survivor, she did have ovarian cancer, giving her perspective on the fight. She said she believes the bench is a good addition to the park, and hopes it might inspire future giving.
"It will pop right at you, and hopefully perk the curiosity of the strollers to go see what it's all about, and maybe encourage them to volunteer in some way," she said.
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