By Kevin Kelley
When lifelong friends Kathy Gable and Maureen Barrett each lost a sister to cancer a decade ago, they decided they needed to take action.
“We can’t have let them have lived in vain,” Gable told Barrett at the wake of the latter woman’s sister.
Gable now acknowledges she didn’t know at the time what they could do. But the two women, who met while attending Our Lady of Angels Grade School in Cleveland, wanted to take some action that would benefit the community.
In 2007, they founded Save Our Sisters, Save Ourselves with the help of high school friends, Barrett’s sisters and other supporters. Before her death, Barrett’s sister, Jeanne Price McGuire, had attended support programs for cancer patients at The Gathering Place’s Beachwood location, which opened in 2000. Gable and Barrett sought to have the nonprofit organization open a location on the West Side. Through fundraisers with Mrs. Claus’ Closet, they raised the money to make that happen. The Gathering Place’s Westlake location on Sharon Drive opened in October 2008.
Gable and Barrett will be among several Gathering Place supporters to be honored at the organization’s gala in the ballroom of the Cleveland Convention Center Oct. 5. Called “The Extravagathering,” the fundraiser consists of cocktails, dinner and musical entertainment by Michael Stanley and friends.
The event, which is expected to draw 700 people, will also feature the debut of The Gathering Place’s new promotional video, which was funded by a grant from the Cleveland Foundation. According to Kristina Austin, The Gathering Place’s chief marketing officer, the organization’s goal is to raise $250,000 at The Extravagathering.
Barrett said the upcoming public recognition, in which they will receive The Gathering Place’s Pillar of Hope award, makes her a bit uncomfortable.
“It’s been life-enriching beyond belief,” she said of her involvement with The Gathering Place. Working on a project also helped her get through the grief following the loss of her sister, who, like Gable’s sister, died in her 50s.
Beth Darmstadter, the chief development director for The Gathering Place, said the two are deserving of the award because they were instrumental in having the organization open its Westlake location.
“They very actively advocated for us expanding on the West Side,” Darmstadter told West Life.
Gable, who lives in Rocky River, and Barrett, who lives in Sheffield Lake, have continued their fundraising efforts for The Gathering Place even after the Westlake location opened. Recently, Save Our Sisters, Save Ourselves, raised $38,000 for The Gathering Place by raffling off tickets for a trip to Italy. In addition, proceeds from the sale of custom-designed jewelry by Save Our Sisters is split between The Gathering Place and Journey of Hope, a Cleveland-area charity that provides financial aid to cancer patients in need.
During the past six years, the two have helped to raised $183,000 for The Gathering Place, Darmstadter said.
But just as important as the money, Darmstadter said, was their raising awareness of the need for a West Side location.
Darmstadter said the need to make The Gathering Place’s services known to individuals battling cancer, as well as their families, continues.
“The most important thing is for people to know that we’re here and that all that we offer is free,” she said.
Among the programs offered by The Gathering Place are yoga classes, support groups, art and music therapy classes and special lectures. The Westlake location includes a lending library staffed by a medical librarian who has been trained to assist patients struggling to understand treatment options, such as chemotherapy.
For more information about The Gathering Place, call the organization at 216-595-9546, or visit its website at www.touchedbycancer.org.
Tickets for The Extravagathering on Oct. 5 cost $250. Cocktails begin at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to http://www.touchedbycancer.org/extravagathering/.