A legacy of hope

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REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Ken Lewis at a previous Celebration of Life gala dressed as a mermaid… or rather a merman.

A crawfish, a mermaid, a lady in black.

These are just three of the disguises Ken Lewis has donned in recent years in his role as auctioneer at the annual Cheryl Hannabury Memorial “Celebration of Life” community cocktail party.

The gala is a Shelter Island tradition and it represents the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Island Gift of Life Foundation.

This year’s party, the 17th, is Saturday, March 4 at the Ram’s Head Inn. While Mr. Lewis, a board member with the Island Gift of Life Foundation, will be acting as emcee this year, no one can say for sure if he will be dressed in a crazy costume or wear more appropriate cocktail party attire.

What is certain, however, is that the event will raise a good deal of money for a great cause.

The Island Gift of Life Foundation began as the dream of an Island resident, Cheryl Hannabury, who had non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

“Cheryl needed a bone marrow transplant, so a group of her friends set out to help her figure out how to get it,” said Chris Lewis, Ken’s mother, in a phone interview earlier this week. “As a way to give back, she and her friends started a bone marrow registry.”

It was also Cheryl’s goal to increase awareness of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as well as the importance of increasing the bone-marrow donor registry for this disease.

In February of 2001, the Gift of Life Foundation became a non-profit organization after many donations were received, and a bone marrow registry drive added 100 new people to the list. Cheryl also hoped to develop an organization that would assist families with uninsured costs that are often incurred during treatment of diseases —including collateral expenses such as travel and lodging of family members.

Unfortunately, after two bone marrow transplants, Cheryl Hannabury died in 2002. But her dream lived on and has grown in the years since. Today, the Island Gift of Life helps families across the East End, including those living in Shelter Island, Southold, East Hampton and Southampton, with treatment related expenses.

This year’s cocktail party takes on special meaning as it will be the first without Cheryl’s mother in attendance. Charlotte Hannabury passed away on September 27, 2016 at the age of 86. A champion of Cheryl’s efforts, after her daughter’s death Charlotte worked tirelessly to build on her vision for the Island Gift of Life Foundation.

Not long before she passed, Charlotte told the Reporter, “Cheryl’s dream lives on. The hope that others could be healed. That is the kind of person Cheryl was.”

The 17th Annual Cheryl Hannabury Memorial “Celebration of Life” Community Cocktail Party is Saturday, March 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Ram’s Head Inn. The event includes music, open bar, hors d’oeuvres, a 50/50 raffle, a gift basket raffle, and a festive live auction. Tickets are $50, available for advance purchase and at the door. To purchase tickets in advance, visit islandgiftoflife.org.

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