Folks dug in their heels, with cowboy hats hung high, for a rip-roaring good time at the American Cancer Society’s third annual “Stetsons & Stilettos” summer fundraiser held at the historic Rancho La Patera and Stow House in Goleta.
“We’re here to raise money for much-needed cancer research because everyone here and everybody we know has been touched in some way by cancer,” said Joanne Funari, chair of the Stetson & Stilettos gala. “It’s up to all of us to help find a cure and to celebrate more birthdays.”
The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer through ongoing research, education, advocacy and outreach programs.
Headquartered in Atlanta, ACS is the largest nonprofit organization of its kind in the Untied States with 12 chartered divisions, more than 900 local offices nationwide and a presence in more than 5,100 communities.
The organization was originally founded in 1913 by 15 physicians and businessmen in New York City, under the name American Society for the Control of Cancer, until the current name was assumed in 1945.
“The genius of the Cancer Society is that they’re present everyday in the lives of our patients and they raise money that supports basic science research,” said Dr. Frederic Kass, medical director of research and wellness for the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. “And right now for young talented scientists it’s very difficult to find the financial support they need for what they do, and ACS plays a huge role in the funding of basic science.”
ACS provides services and support at no charge to Santa Barbara County cancer patients and next year will be celebrating 100 years of leading the world in funding cancer research. In 2011, ACS allotted 129 research grants within California alone, totaling $60.4 million. To date, ACS continues to provide a wealth of medical and scientific research to the public, including cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment and patient support programs that have resulted in nearly 12 million cancer survivors on record and helped countless others avoid the debilitating disease altogether.
The fight to find a cure on this special day commenced at the pristine gardens of Rancho La Patera with its historic centerpiece serving as the perfect venue for the western-themed fundraiser. Built in 1873, the Victorian-style Stow House was built by William Stow, attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Partygoers were harkened back to the early days of California ranching and farming, making their way down a dirt pathway that led to an expanse of gardens bursting with spring flowers, shadowed with oak trees, giant bamboo, Spanish fir and tar pine, and lemon-scented gum surrounding the grounds.
The 1,042-acre ranch was purchased by Stow for a little more than $28,000 in 1871, and has since been condensed to a 5-acre property that is preserved under the stewardship of the Goleta Valley Historical Society, a nonprofit that hosts tours and public events and promotes educational programs from the Goleta foothills location.
Under the drawl and twang of country music hits, attendees mingled on the historic grounds, basking in the scenery and surveying silent auction items on display. Guests also relished cool glasses of homemade lemonade, iced tea and a variety of flavorful spirits from Foley Wines, Consilience Winery and Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards with delicious hors d’oeuvres on hand presented by Pascucci’s.
Meanwhile, some attendees made lighthearted wagers as to who would win the firefighter barbecue cook-off between the Santa Barbara city and county stations. However, the sponsor judges, David Dorsey and Claudia Lash, whose lips and fingers were smudged with barbecue sauce, gave no indication of who the winner would be as they meticulously sampled an array of beef ribs donated by Jordano’s.
Fire captain Mike DePonce of the Santa Barbara City Fire Department, a cancer survivor and longtime advocate for ACS, stood near the judges with a group of fellow firefighters enjoying the festivities, and told Noozhawk he was pleased to be honored as this year’s People’s Choice Award recipient.
“Firefighters and volunteers for the American Cancer Society have one big thing in common — we are all working to save lives,” DePonce said.
DePonce was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of pediatric bone cancer, in 2000 at age 27, and underwent radiation therapy, chemotherapy treatment and the surgical removal of a lower femur. He remained cancer free for two years before the disease reoccurred in his lower back, but this time around the disease was detected early and physicians from UCLA and the Cottage Center for Oncology were able to combat the cancer. At the youthful age of 44, DePonce is in full recovery and said he feels stronger than ever.
“What kept me going and pushed me through the cancer fight was that I knew I had tremendous support, not only from my family but from my co-workers,” he said. “Many of the Fire Department personnel here today actually worked my shifts for me for over a year, and over 100 firefighters shaved their heads when I was going through treatments.”
DePonce said he continues to support local cancer organizations and has made donations to several local cancer charities, helping to provide air transportation for cancer patients and is also a co-founder of the Santa Barbara City Firefighters charitable foundation.
“Early detection is the key to survival. I can’t stress enough to anybody if you’re experiencing any kind of pain or symptoms that are not normal, don’t shrug it off,” DePonce said. “I was a 27-year-old healthy firefighter, and I shrugged it off until it got to a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. And then the cancer was detected and my journey began.”
After the silent auction closed, guests headed to the adjacent dance floor, swinging and stomping their feet to lively country tunes courtesy of Caught Red Handed, and later lined up for a homestyle southern barbecue buffet of tasty collard greens, brisket and pork baby-back ribs with potato salad and corn on the cob provided by Famous Dave’s Simi Valley.
Live auction favorites lassoed by lucky bidders included a Fourth of July Parade on a Santa Barbara city fire engine and a visit for two to the set of Modern Family. Plus, a homemade apple pie that sold for an impressive $375.
Firefighters from the Santa Barbara City Fire Department earned their cooking stripes as the winners of the cook-off for having the best ribs of the day.
Heather Heyerdahl, patient support and training manager for the ACS Stephanie H. Lance Cancer Resource Network, said the fundraiser is critical to help the organization maintain resources not only in the community but throughout all of California.
Last year, a half-million California residents received ACS patient-related information and services. In Santa Barbara, more than 33,000 patients, survivors and caregivers found vital cancer-related information and resources through the resource network’s Santa Barbara unit.
ACS has a menu of information resources with different volunteer opportunities open to the public, such as the online ACS Patient Navigators, a patient navigator program site that assists caregivers, patients and families with arranging transportation to and from treatment, providing referrals to physical therapy, or nutrition counseling services and information pertaining to financial assistance.
Look Good…Feel Better is a free national public service program developed to specifically help women cancer patients improve self-image during cancer treatments.
There’s also Relay for Life, an overnight relay event and fundraiser held in communities across the globe. And the ACS Survivor College Scholarship Program, established in 2000, provides young cancer patients with the opportunity to pursue higher education from an accredited school while on the road to recovery.
ACS is proud to announce the following upcoming countywide events: Ojai Reach for the Stars on Aug. 24, and the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5k Run on Oct. 6 in Santa Ynez and Oct. 27 in San Luis Obispo. For more information, click here or call 800.227.2345 or 805.963.1577.
More than $30,000 was raised at the Stetson & Stilettos fundraiser, and ACS graciously thanks the 2012 sponsors:
» Silver Sponsors: Claudia and Author Lash
» Table Sponsors: Business First Bank, Cottage Health System, Local 2046 Santa Barbara County Firefighters, Lynn Mazza Griffin, MarBorg Industries, Pueblo Radiology Medical Group, Santa Barbara City Firefighters Association Inc. and Village Properties Realtors