Nearly 100 people gathered in the Ford Park Activity Center VIP meeting room Thursday, March 6, as the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program expressed its gratitude to the Texas Wildcatters and Ford Park staff with an appreciation luncheon for the remarkable “Pink in the Rink” hockey game and fundraiser, which touched the lives of thousands of Southeast Texans and generated more than $82,000 in gross proceeds for the “Gift of Life.”

The gourmet deli lunch not only honored the Wildcatters team and staff, but also Motiva Port Arthur Refinery, that generously supported “Pink in the Rink” with a $5,000 gift, and Conn’s, Inc., (represented by William C. Nylin, Executive Vice Chairman), that donated a 40 inch LCD HDTV, which was awarded to a lucky fan during the game.

Wildcatters owners Sharon Terrell and Howard Cornfield, along with 23 team members, presented a check in the amount of $82,388 to “Gift of Life” Chair Regina Rogers; President Nell McCallum Morris; Secretary Donna Harris; and Executive Committee Members Sallye Keith, Alberta Jones, Karen Fontenot and Canda Kessler. These funds will enable the “Gift of Life” to expand its program services and provide Southeast Texans with more lifesaving screenings and treatments.

“Pink in the Rink,” which featured pink ice and pink pom-poms, conducted a silent auction of player-customized pink hockey sticks and baskets, donated by local merchants, including On Stage Hair Design and Torchy’s, and an exhilarating live auction, in which players paraded through a crowd of more than 400 that stayed well past midnight to bid on game-worn pink jerseys, a beautifully customized pink goalie mask, and various other items spontaneously donated by Wildcatters players and hockey staff. Winning bids on hockey sticks ranged from $160 to $500 and jerseys, $1900 to $4,000.

Fans and survivors of breast cancer attending the game donned pink shirts, pink hats and pink

bracelets demonstrating how many Southeast Texas have truly been touched by the devastating disease.

“When breast cancer strikes, it affects the entire family. This event was a great way to get families and the entire community involved in breast cancer awareness,” said Victoria Bonsall, a breast cancer survivor and Beaumont resident, who was diagnosed with cancer through a “Gift of Life” screening. “The Wildcatters are a big part of our community, and it is vital to have local organizations involved in the fight against breast cancer. Awareness is the key to survival.”

“‘Pink in the Rink’ was truly an inspiring and heartfelt occasion that resulted from the generosity of the owners and a team of young men who melt your heart with their kindness and commitment to helping make a difference,” said Norma Sampson, “Gift of Life” Public Affairs Coordinator. “Our organization has been blessed by the Wildcatters’ belief in our program to fight breast cancer successfully.”

Also attending the appreciation luncheon were “Gift of Life” supporters Linda and Joe Penland, Joy Crenshaw, Heather Petkovsek, Danita Fierce and representatives from the following “Gift of Life” Mobile Mammography Van Sponsors: Joe Domino and Vernon Pierce, of Entergy; Frances Gallow, R.N. and Carmen Lopez Vega, of St. Katharine Drexel Humanitarians: Mike Amy and Chris Castillo, of the YMBL; and Mindy Yount, Becky Demeter, Marybel Loya and Chaundra Pegues, of Motiva.

The “Gift of Life” has made available over 13,500 free mammograms and 4,500 free prostate cancer screenings and has helped extend the lives of more than 125 individuals who have been diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer and provided access to treatment through its efforts.

Mission and Annual Programming

The “Gift of Life” is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located in Beaumont, Texas, serving all of Southeast Texas. Operating for 13 years, the agency is dedicated to decreasing the incidence of death associated with breast and prostate cancer. Its mission is accomplished through (1) provision of free mammography and prostate cancer screenings for people of limited financial means who are uninsured and underinsured, along with access to treatment and follow-up care through a referral link with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston; and (2) conducting extensive community educational outreach. This mission was expanded in 2004 to include smoking cessation and prevention activities and testicular cancer education.

A cooperative effort of Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospitals, the Julie & Ben Rogers Cancer Institute, the Dauphin Cancer Screening & Prevention Center, local physicians, the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston and its local clinics, the UTMB Cancer Stop Program, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the “Gift of Life” has funded nearly 13,500 free mammograms and more than 4,500 free prostate cancer screenings, and has conducted more than 475 educational outreach programs since its inception, reaching nearly 50,000 people. In addition, the “Gift of Life” has helped extend the lives of more than 125 individuals who have been diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer and provided access to treatment through its efforts.

As one of the largest cancer screening and awareness organizations of its type in Texas, the “Gift of Life” directly serves more than 20,000 recipients annually (in addition to publishing a program newsletter several times a year that is distributed to over 15,000 people in Southeast Texas and beyond and conveys the important message of early detection). Each year, cancer awareness information is disseminated to thousands of individuals at over 50 educational outreach presentations and area health fairs; approximately 500 men receive free prostate cancer screenings; 750 medically underserved women receive free mammograms at Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospitals in Beaumont and Orange; and 700 additional women are given free mammograms and clinical breast exams on the UTMB-Galveston mobile van at 20 Southeast Texas van sites. Access to follow-up care for eligible individuals who need testing and treatment following their screenings is also provided. Further, the “Gift of Life” minivan is available for clients who require transportation to and from the program’s cancer screening tests and exams.

The “Gift of Life” also offers multiple yearly programs including a Survivors’ Celebration honoring breast and prostate cancer survivors. Program services were expanded in 2004 to include the following initiatives: (1) ASPIRE, A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience, featuring M. D. Anderson-developed curriculum introduced into Beaumont Independent School District 9th grade health classes; (2) the Prostate Cancer Support Group, created in association with the American Cancer Society, which meets monthly and now includes more than 50 members; (3) the Testicular Cancer Outreach Program presented to senior males at area high schools; and (4) a Heightened Cancer Awareness Campaign during both Prostate and Breast Cancer Awareness Months; and (5) “Don’t Smoke Your Life Away,” a community-wide anti-smoking campaign targeting both adults and adolescents, launched in 2005.