On the eve of the Ellen Hermanson Foundation’s 20th anniversary summer gala next weekend, event chair Jean Shafiroff details why the cause is so close to her heart.
Like many people, I spend a large portion of the year on the East End. Well known for its beaches and its beauty, it also has the misfortune of having one of the highest breast cancer diagnosis and mortality rates in the state.
My mother was a regular visitor to Southampton, and both she and my grandmother suffered from breast cancer. When I discovered the great work that Julie Ratner and Emily Levinhave achieved in the past 20 years with The Ellen Hermanson Foundation in the Hamptons, I knew I had to help. On June 20, I will chair the Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Summer Gala, which will honor Andy Sabin, a longtime resident of the East End, at Steven Klein’s beautiful West Kill Farm in Bridgehampton. This event will be followed soon after by the 20th annual Ellen’s Run on August 16, when families will join in a 5K race against breast cancer.
Established in 1997, the Foundation continues the important work to which Hermanson, a young wife and mother, devoted so much of her time and energy. An activist and an advocate, Hermanson fought the disease for six years, and during this time she channeled her journalistic talents to become a voice for breast cancer patients and their families. She educated her readers and fellow patients about the importance of early detection, the challenges of living with breast cancer, the very real (but little-discussed or understood) issue of pain management, and the debilitating effects of breast cancer on the entire family.
In 2008, the Foundation pledged $500,000 to fund The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital, whose Summer Party I’ve chaired three times. The center opened in 2009 and transformed the medical landscape. Recently, Robert Chaloner, the president and CEO of Southampton Hospital, called it “the jewel and crown of Southampton Hospital.”
The foundation is unique in its commitment to helping breast cancer patients and their families cope with the changing nature of the physical and emotional aspects of breast cancer. A focus is placed on educational outreach, psychosocial support, and financial support. Sometimes, more than anything, assistance with the cost of the treatment is what patients need most, so the foundation started Ellen’s Well, a program providing free psychosocial support and strategic grants to patients most in need. The grants have even helped sufferers and their families pay bills—heating, electric, car repair, and medical. Whatever is needed, Julie and Emily, with the memory of their sister Ellen ever present, have been there to assist.
The fundraising efforts of this foundation have made possible the grants that Ellen’s Well has provided since May 2000 and also have made The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital what it is today. I am proud and honored to be part of this nonprofit, which helps so many suffering from breast cancer.