Around the Island

Celebration of Life returns to the Island

Cheryl Hannabury’s gift keeps on giving

“There’s no greater gift than a community coming together and supporting each other and that’s what Shelter Island does best,” said Gina Krauss, a board member of Island Gift of Life Foundation, which helps East End families with uninsured costs during treatment of serious diseases such as travel and lodging expenses for family members to distant treatment centers.

The Foundation is hosting its 19th Annual Cheryl Hannabury Memorial “Celebration of Life” community cocktail party on Saturday, March 2, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the Ram’s Head Inn. The evening will feature live music, an open bar, light fare, a 50/50 raffle, a Chinese auction and an experiential bid auction.

“Mashomack Preserve director Jeremy Samuelson has so graciously agreed to oversee the live auction, that’s new for us,” Ms. Kraus said. The auction offers excursions like a romantic getaway for two to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.; a stay in a classic Tuscan Farmhouse for eight; and accommodations for 12 at a beautifully restored 1803 Maine lighthouse.

The Foundation was founded in 2001 by Island resident Cheryl Hannabury and a group of her friends. Ms. Hannabury battled Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for several years and while struggling with the disease, realized how the burden of expenses not covered by insurance added to the stress her family was experiencing. The Foundation was created to raise money for uninsured expenses that arose while individuals were being treated for life-threatening illnesses, including the cost of lodging for families and support teams.

Placing their bid on a silent auction item are Jeanne, Megan and Richard Markey at the 2018 event.

One of the first initiatives of the Foundation was a blood/bone marrow drive that added 100 names to the bone marrow donor registry. Though the goal was to also find a possible match for Cheryl, she succumbed to the disease before that could happen. Today, the Foundation provides financial aid to dozens of East End families each year and continues to fund bone marrow drives, designating $10,000 a year to “Be the Match,” a bone marrow registry.

“A 27-year-old woman from East Hampton who received a marrow transplant through Be the Match will speak at the event. She’s living proof of what happens when the community comes together with open arms to support each other,” Ms. Kraus said. 

Amy Mitchell and Gary Blados take to the dance floor alongside James Eklund and his daughter Elizabeth at last year’s fundraiser.

Ms. Kraus added that, currently, the Foundation has an influx of two to three new “cases,” or people in need of help, each month, such as a seven-year-old boy battling lymphoma who lives in Southampton and a 38-year-old woman going through recovery and reconstruction after a double mastectomy.

“We just want to help people navigate these hard times. We hope people reach out to us to help support them,” Ms. Kraus said.

Raffle tickets are $10; admission is $50 at the door or online at

Corinne Wilutis and William Caccese pull an auction winner as emcee Ken Lewis gives the play-by-play.