Photos by Sharon Aron Baron

By: Jen Russon

October is known for a lot of things: changing leaves, trick or treating and, of course, breast cancer awareness. Since 2010, the nonprofit organization Not My Daughter has held its flagship event in October, and every year it sells out.

This year’s event called Defying Gravity, was no exception.

The event held on Monday at the Heron Bay Marriott in Coral Springs borrowed its title from the musical, Wicked. Volunteers wore stylized witch hats, also available for purchase. Guests could register for the silent auction to win large gift baskets, filled with goodies from participating vendors, who numbered in the hundreds. Clothes, jewelry, art and healthcare companies manned tables, rounding out the event with a highly eclectic boutique before the luncheon.

The reception room felt like dinner theater, as lunch was serenaded by Erica Lustig, a New York based actress and singer. Lustig sang Somewhere “Over the Rainbow” and the song behind the moment, “Defying Gravity”.

As musical numbers were performed, guests dined on chicken breast salad with a cranberry vinaigrette, gourmet bread basket and mousse dessert, served with raspberry ganache and sauce, deliberately designed in a pink ribbon on the plate. In keeping with the color associated with breast cancer awareness, glasses of pink lemonade were served.

After dessert, the silent auction winners were announced and youth performers from the Dance Theater Company spun around the room, their Defying Gravity costumes complimenting the pink and green surroundings. The tablecloths, place settings and decor were planned in the spirit of Wicked.

Attendees, many who paid $100 or $125 for “VIPink” tickets, received a pink scarf, t-shirts to commemorate the event, and bags of swag that included, along with vendor information, pens from Dignicap and complimentary Chapstick from another sponsor.

Speakers included Denyse Hostig, founder and chairwoman of Not My Daughter and Parkland mayor, Christine Hunschofsky. There was also commentary from Doctors Alejandra Perez and Laura Freeman about the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Hostig said it’s too soon to know exactly how much money was raised on Monday, but did confirm that Not My Daughter is on track to meet its fundraising goals for The Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research and new auxiliary services for breast cancer patients at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at Plantation.

“We sold out this year’s event, so we have, since Not My Daughter’s inception in 2010, raised three-quarters of a million dollars,” said Hostig.

Funds raised by the Parkland nonprofit, Not My Daughter, have enabled the Sylvester Center to open Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute this month where patients and their families receive resources, like prosthetics, wigs, exercise, nutrition, counseling, education and childcare during treatment and recovery.

Another guest speaker, Jody Sternfield, a breast cancer survivor, said that resources like the Braman Center, volunteers and donors are what really get patients through their breast cancer diagnoses and treatment.

Acknowledging her gratitude for the people assembled,  brought tears to Sternfield’s eyes. “I told myself I wouldn’t cry,” she laughed.  “The volunteers today have worked so hard.”

In a slideshow presentation of Sternfield with her husband and children, the last photo showed the mother of five with a head of flowing blonde hair. To a round of applause, she told the audience she had been cancer-free for many years now.

As the event wrapped up and winners of the silent auction were ready to take their baskets home, Not My Daughter volunteers passed by tables to collect donation cards, one of them reminding the crowd, “No donation is too small. Even if it’s just a dollar, it makes a difference.”

To donate via Venmo, go to @NMD2018. Learn more about Not My Daughter…Find a Cure Now.