Organically grown: Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group

Organically grown: Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group

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Chairman Jane Carroll (left) and Ann Marie Donahue at the annual Evening Under the Stars. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Jane Carroll told it straight up at An Evening Under the Stars, the annual fundraiser for the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group (MVCSG), held last Thursday night, May 17 at Lattanzi’s Restaurant in Edgartown.

“This is our annual fundraiser, but when we started 26 years ago, we were broke,” she told approximately 125 guests at the event, where organizers expected to raise about $20,000. Funds will be used “100 percent to give cancer victims and their families help during a difficult period in their lives,” the MVCSG chairman told the crowd.

In all, the grassroots organization has made $500,000 available over 26 years to provide transportation and defray expenses that come with an unexpected fight for life that freezes careers and normal living patterns for Island families. Last year the group provided $49,000 to Island families dealing with cancer.

The group’s other annual fundraiser, a tennis tournament hosted by Farm Neck Golf Club, will be held next month. Ms. Carroll said that donations make up a large percentage of MVCSG aid funds. In addition to event sponsors Lattanzi’s, Carroll Trucking, and the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, MVCSG credited 42 Island companies and organizations for their contributions.

Hosts Albert and Cathy Lattanzi pulled out all the stops with a sparkling buffet of Italian dishes and dessert treats while Mike Benjamin and a surprise appearance by Island crooner Joanne Cassidy entertained folks. Ms. Cassidy’s sister Samantha wrestled non-Hodgkins lymphoma for two years as an eight-year-old.

“After the cancer, something happened,” said Samantha’s father, Mike Cassidy. “Samantha changed after her struggle. She became more confident. We all did. She really embraces her life. We embrace life more closely today.”

Cancer survivors and their families talk about gratitude a lot. They are not a glum lot, and they have learned the value of service to others.

Mike Taus is MVCSG vice-chairman. A hulking guy who lost his wife to cancer, Mr. Taus signed up 10 years ago to give back what his family received, particularly in emotional support. “I don’t know what we’d have done without these people,” he said.

Certainly Wiley Vanderhoop, a 10-week-old Weimaraner, was getting rock star treatment on the patio. Wiley debuted with his people, Aquinnah’s Lisa and Buddy Vanderhoop.

At night’s end, Ms. Cassidy and Mr. Benjamin delighted attendees with their rendition of Sam Cooke’s hit, “Bring It On Home to Me.”

For details on MVCSG events and donations, visit mvcsg.com or call 508-627-7958.