The Girl Next Door
Katie Holmes braves rain at Fairfield fundraiser
By Amanda Cuda
FAIRFIELD, CT -- Actress Katie Holmes, like just about everyone else, has been touched by cancer. Her mother is an ovarian cancer survivor and the former "Dawson's Creek" star said she's watched friends and other loved ones battle various types of cancer.
"I don't know anyone who hasn't been affected, directly or indirectly, by this disease," said Holmes, who spoke before about 600 people Thursday at the annual Rose of Hope luncheon to support Bridgeport Hospital's Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center.
Other than the revelation about her mother, Holmes's speech was fairly devoid of personal details and she spoke for only a few minutes. The actress, who until recently was married to actor Tom Cruise, talked mainly about the center and its work helping women navigate the often tricky journey of cancer diagnosis and treatment. She recalled watching her mom battling cancer and how difficult it can be, for family as well as for the patient.
"It can leave you with that sense of helplessness," she said.
Holmes commended the center and places like it for providing an oasis for those facing their own cancer battles.
The Rose of Hope luncheon is the biggest fundraiser for the center, which provides a variety of breast cancer treatment services, particularly for uninsured, underinsured and women who might not otherwise afford them.\
It has offices both at the hospital and in Fairfield.
Attendees included Bonnie Marcus, who owns the Bonnie Marcus Collection in Westport. A sponsor of the event, Marcus got to attend a champagne fundraiser with Holmes before the luncheon.
"When she first came in, she lit up the room like a ray of sunshine," said Marcus, whose company designs stationary and gift items.
She was somewhat underwhelmed, however, by Holmes' brief speech. Having enjoyed Holmes so much during the reception, she said that her spirit didn't come through in the speech.
"For the people attending, I don't know that they got the authenticity of her," Marcus said.
As it has for many years, the fundraiser took place under a tent in the backyard of Fairfield residents Tom and Patti Keegan.
Though a tent kept the sometimes torrential rain off the lunch crowd, the ground underneath was soaked, posing a distinct disadvantage to the partygoers who had opted to wear heels or open-toed shoes. Some planned for the weather and donned more practical footwear, including Holmes, who opened her speech by telling everyone she'd worn tennis shoes.
Breast Center Executive Director Donna Twist told the crowd she'd received texts and emails saying things like "Don't worry about the weather" and "Let's make lemonade out of lemons!"
The event also included a moving speech by Catherine Simpson, a Bridgeport resident and cancer survivor who had been served by the breast center.
Simpson was diagnosed about three years ago, and she described the terror she felt at that diagnosis. Her sister had died of breast cancer at age 46, and she worried about meeting the same fate.
"I'm a strong woman, but suddenly I wanted to run as far and fast as I possibly could," Simpson said.
One of her concerns was that she wouldn't be able to afford the care. The Pfriem center helped her financially, allowing her to get treatments that included two lumpectomies on her left breast. Since her battle, Simpson said, she's been outspoken in trying to get women to see doctors regularly, even if they feel they can't afford the care.
"I tell every woman I meet not to be naive like me," she said. "I tell them not to be afraid to ask for help if needed."
During Simpson's talk, the rain stopped, and it remained relatively sunny throughout the rest of the lunch -- a fact Holmes remarked on during her own speech.
"I think it's sunny because of Catherine," she said.