A family tragedy inspired Ann Dunleavy to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which raises money to fight breast cancer. And a casual chat three years ago inspired Lynne Parella, owner of The Chill, the Benicia wine bar at 362 First St., to raise money for Dunleavy’s effort.
Dunleavy, superintendent of Community Services for the city of Benicia, lost two first cousins to breast cancer 15 years ago. To deal with her grief, she wanted to find a way to contribute to the battle against the disease. But she wanted a challenge, because cancer patients face challenges. “I wanted to experience a hard journey,” she said. She found what she wanted in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
The Susan G. Komen organization was started by Nancy Brinker in 1982 to keep a promise to Komen, her sister, who was stricken with breast cancer. It’s grown to become the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for research, community health outreach, advocacy efforts and other programs in more than 60 countries. It has invested $2.9 million in those efforts, reducing breast cancer deaths by 40 percent between 1989 and 2016, according to information provided by the organization.
While other options are available, Dunleavy prefers the three-day, 60 mile walk that includes camping in tents. She entered her first three-day Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 14 years ago. “It was physically challenging, but emotionally, it filled my heart so much, I couldn’t wait to do it again,” Dunleavy said. To date, she has raised $41,800 through her series of walks.
This year, Dunleavy will participate in the only Susan G. Komen three-day event that will take place in California, in San Diego in November. “It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and it’s a beautiful venue. This will be my fourth time walking San Diego,” Dunleavy said. “The weather is wonderful, and the community gives an outpouring of support and love. It’s a great host,” she said. “It chokes you up. Every so many miles, you see people on their front lawns clapping or offering you water or fruit. It’s incredible, and it’s a great journey.”
Dunleavy is a customer of The Chill and is familiar with Parella’s involvement with other community efforts. The Chill has been open in Benicia for 15 years this past August, a time that Parella said has “gone by very, very fast.” Through her wine bar, Parella has organized community supportive fundraisers, including wine education classes, cornhole games and bingo nights for animal rescues and organizations helping those with autism, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis and cancer. This year, she’s also helping support the Benicia ball park. When Dunleavy asked three years ago about a fundraising event, Parella immediately agreed. “I know Ann from around town,” she said. “She’s a customer and she’s a sweetheart.”
Parella knew helping Dunleavy would be a good fit for The Chill and suggested a bingo night. “I’m always looking for good causes. Anne’s an awesome lady,” she said. The games have proven popular. “It’s such a fun event, everyone enjoys it,” Dunleavy said. This year, the bingo night supporting Dunleavy will start at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8. Cost to play is $25.
People can stop by The Chill ahead of time to reserve a chance to play, or they may simply show up before starting time. Prizes will be awarded, Parella said, “but 100 percent of the proceeds go to the charity.”
Parella said she is hoping enough people will play to help her match the total reached last year, $2,000. And she won’t be surprised if she succeeds. “Ann brings in a good crowd!” she said.