Thursday, September 29, 2011

Camaraderie on the beach

By Suzie Siegel

For the first time, I flew to Los Angeles to see our Ocean of Hope team compete in the Catalina Classic Paddle-board Marathons last month. I discovered that you don't see much paddling from the beach, but you do have plenty of time to talk to survivors and supporters.

Some of us had never seen other volunteers in person. Some stretched out on beach towels and under umbrellas. Others worked behind the tables laden with food and O2H merchandise. (In the photo above, Board President Joan Darling; her son-in-law, Dan Olig; and survivor Amy Regenstreif relax before the work starts. The next photo shows past Board President Ellen Silver and survivor Christine Tope.)

People who stopped by got a quick lesson on sarcoma and the Sarcoma Alliance. We also helped educate people on cancer in general.

For a while, I stood out in the sun, selling raffle tickets for the beautiful blue board donated by master board shaper Joe Bark. I caressed it as if I were Vanna White on "Wheel of Fortune." I also sold jewelry -- back home, I sell donated items to raise money for the Alliance.

Paddlers raise money through O2H, as do sarcoma survivors, family members and friends. The series of ocean races known as O2H is the biggest fundraiser for the Sarcoma Alliance. It raised $50,000 this year, bringing the 12-year total to $600,000. This year, Mike Rogers was the biggest fundraiser, bringing in $17,730. He's in the photo below.

A group of us would run down to the water whenever the announcer said one of our four guys had finished. I felt especially happy when I heard Mike’s name announced because he had been so worried that he wouldn’t make the 32 miles to Manhattan Beach. He’s our oldest paddler, and he was still healing from injuries. The picture at left shows him at Palos Verdes.

“It was 8 hours of hell.” The water was choppy, and his muscles were cramping. “I felt bad because I knew people were on the beach, and all I could do was go past the flag, do a U-turn and get on the boat with towels, and shake.

“I had people to help and not let down, and even being an elder paddler is no excuse to stop. … My Mom was on the pier to cheer. I was seeing double at that point and was sore and cold. She said, ‘Well done, you finished. Now what?’ Redefine my goals and raise a lot more money next year to help.”

If you or your loved ones raise $3,000, a bright sticker with your name on it will be affixed to a board. Mike had Tracey Talley’s name on his board. Steve Shikiya had Josephine Schiavo. Joel Pepper had the names of Wendy Sommers and Susan Bohardt on his board. He's pictured with Bob Bohardt and his daughters, Cara Kohlrieser and Julie Beam, both RNs, at left. Phil Ambrose is in the photo at right, with Fred Sardisco, O2H co-captain. Phil had Suzanne Leider and Bob Chambliss. (I'm way

late in profiling Bob on our site. He was the only sarcoma survivor to paddle in O2H, and he was a terrific supporter of the Alliance and others with sarcoma. His mother, Kathy, also served on our board.)

Joel came in seventh in the stock board division. The other three paddlers were in the unlimited division, with bigger and faster boards. Steve was 28th, Phil was 51st and Mike was 57th.

To win a raffle, luck helps, but buying a bunch of tickets helps even more. Steve gets that – and the paddleboards. “He won the Hennessey's paddleboard raffle and the O2H raffle. Crazy!” said Aimee Spector, co-captain of O2H. He's in the photo below.

Barney Tong is the offical O2H photographer. For more photos, go to Picasa.

In the photo below, left to right, on the front row, are: Laura and Fred Sardisco, Aimee, Cara and Julie. Standing are: Suzanne's brother, Philip Leider, board member; board member Marites Tullius, a nurse practitioner and friend of Suzanne's; board member Dave Murphy, whose wife, Piera, died of sarcoma; nurse practitioner Betsy Haas-Beckert and husband Arthur Beckert, executive director; me; Bob; Suzanne's mother, Sharon Leider; survivor Alan Nishio; a person I can't identify; and survivor Kendra Krause between board member Ali and her husband, Dan. Not pictured are survivor Kelly Flynn and Kendra's husband, Brian.

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