WTC survivor Colleen Reilly speaks at Rose of Hope fundraiser

Kendra Wingate, Minuteman News Center

Fairfield, CT —  “A Sea of Possibilities” inspired 250 guests at this year’s sold-out tenth anniversary Rose of Hope celebration, held at the Trumbull Marriott. The annual dinner, silent and live auction fundraising event benefits the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center located at 111 Beach Road in Fairfield.

The Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center, a division of Bridgeport Hospital, Yale New Haven Health, is dedicated to providing a comprehensive network of services (with locations in Fairfield, Trumbull and Bridgeport) for complete breast health and wellness. The Center boasts a multidisciplinary team of breast cancer specialists, who provide one-on-one patient care with dignity, privacy and warmth, in a serene and comfortable, yet professional setting. Wellness programs include; acupuncture, massage, meditation, naturopathic medicine, nutrition counseling, Pilates, Reiki, relaxation techniques, wigs [sic] fittings, bra’s [sic] and prosthetic fittings, and yoga along with, “clinical expertise, tender, hands on care for cancer patients and their families and the support and understanding that can only come from people who have been through it themselves.”

“Our patients and our community are very special to us,” said Sally Cascella, Senior Nurse Educator. “This is an event where everybody comes together and everybody looks forward to, it’s very joyful. We get a lot of support from the hospital and at the end of the day, we raise a lot of money for our uninsured/underinsured programs (100 percent of the event’s proceeds benefit these programs). Last year alone we were able to help over 1,000 women and that’s really what it’s all about.”

The event, which has made between 35 and 45 thousand dollars each year, was previously held at Cinzano’s Restaurant in Fairfield, however outgrew [sic] that venue. “This is our biggest year, we are very excited to be at the Marriott,” continued Cascella. “We also wanted to mix it up a little and generate new interest, new and exciting.”

“We are extremely proud of the work the Norma Pfriem Breast Care Center (NPBCC) does,” explained Stephen Jakab, President of the Bridgeport Hospital Foundation. “It is one of the crown jewels in the Bridgeport Hospital and Yale New Haven Health family. Donna Twist and her team really have become almost a national model for how to deliver care to breast cancer patients and this is just a wonderful way to give some visibility to that cause on a cold winter night. This event has developed a very loyal and generous following. A lot of our physicians are here tonight and also some of our lead sponsors are here. It says a lot about them when they give not only their time and talents, but also make an investment in the Breast Centers [sic] future. It’s a wonderful community that has grown up around the center.”

This year’s Honorary Keynote speaker, Colleen Reilly, an Integrative Kundalini Yoga Instructor at the Center in Fairfield and at the Ocean Grove, N.J., Angel of the Grove Healing Center, inspired those in attendance, as she explained her “Transforming Tragedy, A 9/11 Survivor’s Story.”

“It’s an honor to be a part of this event tonight,” said Reilly. “The fact that the Center has been able to help over 1,000 women in the past year, who could not afford coverage otherwise, is what is so wonderful about the Center. It is like coming home to a community, you are greeted with waves and hello’s [sic], and to receive this kind of care when you are faced with a tragedy or a diagnosis of something that is so foreign to you, is wonderful. It is a place where you are well taken care of in so many ways.”

Reilly, who worked in AIG’s International Risk Finance Department, was coming up and out of the PATH train into the World Trade Center on 9/11, 2001, to the devastation of the buildings [sic] collapse. “We were the ones covered in white, and all of that, I went through decontamination that day, and being sprayed down with the fire hose was quite terrifying. The terrorists had really gotten me, they had really hooked me, I was terrified to live,” explained Reilly. “I lived with a lot of guilt and remorse as to why I survived with all these people around me who were gone, all these families without husbands and mothers, sons and daughters. There came a point in time when something awoke in me and said, you’ve got to use this, I didn’t know how, I didn’t have the tools or know where to turn, but my spirit really broke open and was like – we are going to use this. Very powerful teachers showed up in my life and taught me real practical everyday tools in how to begin to use the events in your life and they become divine ingredients for your soul. I believe whole heartedly my experience has been that my soul has that blueprint of why I’m here and why I survived 9/11. I was able to step out of being a victim and into a driver of my life and was able to use these ingredients rather than have them use me, so it’s all turned into divine ingredients for my soul’s purpose. The team jokes, I’ve gone from the boardroom to the yoga room,” laughed Reilly.

“This is an inspirational annual event that hopes to inspire anybody in the community, not just patients,” said Linda Blackwell, Advisory Board Chair. “It always hosts an inspirational speaker whose message is long lasting, tonight’s is overcoming tragedy and survivorship, which can be applied to most peoples [sic] lives in some way. We hope that people will be inspired by it and of course all the people who are here support the NPBCC, it’s really a wonderful event.”

Among the supportive physicians in attendance was Andrew Kenler, MD, FACS, who is also a premier Sponsor. Kenler specializes in diseases of the breast and laparoscopic surgery. Kenler applauded Sally Cascella and the team for organizing this wonderful event.

“Sally created this intimate, tight knit atmosphere; there are a lot of caregivers and patients here. The speakers are always reflective and powerful, what they say tends to resonate. I remember bringing my children in the past, they are grown now, and still speak of the honorees, there’s always a message to go home with. It’s not always to do with breast cancer but has to do with fighting something, because everybody fights something, is overcoming something. It all circles back to the message of hope and inspiration and of love and of community, it’s powerful. I love being here.”

Medical Director Mary Pronovost, MD concurs, “It’s a lovely event and it’s nice for a lot of our patients to attend in a more intimate group and to hear some inspirational speakers.”

Anke Ott, MD, PhD, a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, works alongside Dr. Pronovost. “It’s a great evening to drag everyone out of their cold winter houses, it gets everybody together, we enjoy food, drinks and great company with previous patients, current patients and sponsors, [sic] it’s always a nice night.”

“The Rose of Hope winter event will melt hearts in this freezing cold weather as we walk into the room, not only with the beautiful colors and blue and of spring, it’s called a Sea of Possibilities, but with the warmth and love that’s in the room,” said Donna Twist, PhD, Vice President Development.

“This is a wonderful event; it’s a little smaller than our Rose of Hope event in the spring. I just love it, like Donna said, it brings warmth in the cold,” said Karen Paloian, Presidents Council Member. “We have incredible speakers that are just so motivational in whatever experience or journey they went through.”

“After attending one of my Yoga classes, a patient said to me, ‘you allow me to participate in my recovery; everything is done to me, my chemo, my pills, my surgery … I can participate in this and it totally empowers me’” said Reilly. “In the future I hope everyone has that opportunity to ignite their spirit and to improve their health. My theory is it ignites the spirit and you design this gorgeous internal landscape that you can live from.”

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