It will be a bittersweet celebration as the North Fork Breast Health Coalition presents two posthumous awards at the third annual Pink Pearl Gala next weekend.
The group, which is dedicated to helping people who are living with breast cancer, will honor its founders, Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and her late husband Antonio with the Pink Pearl Community Service Award.
The DeGrasses started the coalition in 1998 after Ann twice had a scare with breast exams that required her to get biopsies, she said in an interview. It came to their attention that there was nothing like the South Fork Breast Health Coalition on the North Fork, to provide local services to local residents.
Antonio recruited several Riverhead Rotary Club members to get the group off the ground, his wife said. Crucial to the effort was Tanger Outlets general manager Janine Nebons, who had the idea for the 5K walk and a month-long promotion at the outlet center, Cotten-DeGrasse said. The Rotary Club donated funding and members volunteered their services to get the organization established. Cotten-DeGrasse served the organization as its president for many years after its founding. Antonio DeGrasse passed away last April.
Flora and Irwin Garsten will be honored with the Pink Pearl Spirit Award. The couple is being recognized for their charitable contributions to the community. As the owners of Apple Honda, Riverhead, they established an annual breast cancer awareness campaign, which has been held every October at the car dealership for the last four years. Including participation at the annual NFBHC 5K Walk, Apple Honda has contributed $27,250 to local breast-cancer patients and survivors. Irwin passed away in February.
The North Fork Breast Health Coalition’s mission is to encourage and assist in the prevention, early intervention, and cure of breast cancer through advocacy, awareness, networking, and research.
The all-volunteer organization has helped hundreds of women on the North Fork with support and services — from the “Lend a Helping Hand” program, which provides 20 to 30 grants annually, of up to $1,000 each, to breast cancer patients on the North Fork for assistance with travel costs, housecleaning, meal preparation, etc. to gentle yoga classes, reflexology, massage therapy and support groups.
The organization also works to let people know about breast cancer screening services available locally, including free mammograms from Cancer Services in Riverhead (631-548-6320).
The Pink Pearl Gala, named for the group’s late past president Pearl Philindas pays tribute to the volunteers who give their time and effort to the coalition’s cause.
The gala dinner and award ceremony, followed by dancing, will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. in the ballroom at East Wind, 5720 Route 25A, Wading River on Friday, April 7.
News 12 reporter Shari Einhorn returns as emcee and DJ Phil returns for musical entertainment.
Tickets are $125 per person. To reserve individual seating or tables for a group or to inquire about corporate sponsorship opportunities, please leave a message at the coalition office in Riverhead at 631-208-8889, click here to contact event chair Melanie McEvoy by email or visit the NFBHC website.
Tickets are also available through www.nycharities.org.