Ladies dress up, sip tea to raise funds for cancer

Sheri Bottonfield, Anna Bergemann, Burnett Pearse and Jolene Schmidt were among the more than 200 guests at the 2nd Annual Tea for Cancer Foundation fundraiser, Sunday. The event was chance to educate, entertain and empathize.

NEW ULM — The ladies of New Ulm came out in their best dresses and fanciest hats for a Sunday tea party with a cause.

It was the second annual Tea for a Cancer fundraiser. The event was held at Best Western Plus. Event co-chairs Sandy Reinke and Kristine Rueckert said the tea party was to raise money for local cancer patients.

The Tea for Cancer Foundation non-profit was set up to give families dealing with cancer a place to go for financial support. A website was set up where local cancer patients and families may apply for a grant to help cover expenses.

Reinke said the funds can be used for a variety of cancer-related needs. Maybe a family needs extra gas money to travel to treatments. Maybe they want to hire a house cleaner while they are going through treatments.

“We want to make it easier for them to focus on getting better,” she said.

Reinke and Rueckert chose a tea party-themed fundraiser as a way of making the event more entertaining. The goal of the event was to educate, entertain and empathize.

“If you want to see women have a good time, give them a theme,” Rueckert said. “It is also beautiful to listen to people’s stories. There are always cancer survivors at these events.”

The fundraiser was a huge hit before it even started. The event was originally planned for 200, but a total of 220 tickets were ultimately sold.

The number of women attending in fancy hats was also up from the first Tea for a Cancer fundraiser. A special vote was taken among guests to determine who had the best hat. Jeanne Kretsch took home the prize for best hat. Kretsch said she found the hat on a trip to Arizona and bought it with this tea party in mind.

The meal began with a special toast to New Ulm Medical Centers (NUMC) Oncology Department. Reinke said the Oncology Department at NUMC was one of the best, but over the last year and a half, because of COVID, the hospital staff had to do more. Typically, when a patient comes in for chemotherapy, a companion chair is placed next to them. The idea is a friend or family member sits with them during chemo treatments to prevent them from being alone, but COVID made that impossible. Medical staff had served as companions.

The fundraiser included videos and testimonials from people who were battling cancer and had survived cancer.

The first guest speaker of the event was Jeff Miller, who addressed the room through a Zoom call. Miller told the story of his wife Marsha’s battle with cancer. Marsha was diagnosed in 2020

Jeff said the number of people who supported Marsha was overwhelming.

“It showed how many good people were out there,” Jeff said. “My faith in humanity was restored.”

After 31 chemo treatments and a double mastectomy, life is getting back to normal for the Miller family.

Jeff said the future was never guaranteed but wanted anyone with cancer or who would get cancer to know people will be there for support.

The second speaker was Kathy Honey-Murphy. Ten years ago Honey-Murphy has diagnosed with stage 3A cancer. After the diagnosis, she noticed many friends did not know what to say to her. Honey-Murphy ended up consoling her friends rather than the other way around.

Honey-Murphy also wanted to maintain a positive attitude about her diagnosis. She found humor was a great way to address it. It improved her attitude and it opened up others to talk about her illness.

“I could choose to laugh or cry, I chose to laugh,” she said.

She began creating a line of humorous get-well cards focused on cancer. The cards are a benefit for people who want to loved ones facing cancer but don’t know how to open the conversation.

“If I can help one cancer patient have a little better day, it means the world to me,” Honey-Murphy said.

Honey-Murphy said the money being raised by the fundraiser was a great help to families struggling with medical bills related to cancer. She said even with great insurance a family could end up paying a lot of money out of pocket for expenses.

All proceeds from Tea for Cancer will be used to provide support to local cancer patients and families experiencing financial hardship due to the disease. Families can apply for a grant at https://teaforcancer.org anonymously. Grants will be awarded for $100 to $1,000 to assist with transportation, household expenses, mortgage/rent payments, etc.


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