Bridgeport Hospital fundraiser includes E! host, local help

It’s incredible how many people we can help just by sharing our story.”

Giuliana Rancic

More than 580 people attended the June 13 Rose of Hope Luncheon in Fairfield to support Bridgeport Hospital’s Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center. Proceeds are expected to top last year’s mark of $335,000, which would set another record for the annual event that began in 2000.

The keynote speakers were TV personalities Giuliana and Bill Rancic. Giuliana is a breast cancer survivor and the co-anchor of E! News. Her husband Bill, a motivational speaker and Chicago real estate developer, was hired by the Trump organization at the conclusion of the first season of The Apprentice.

“On behalf of our patients and their families, we are truly grateful to Giuliana and Bill for sharing their experience with us and lending their support to the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center,” said Dr. Donna Twist, the center’s executive director and vice president of development. “We also sincerely thank the entire community for its ongoing generosity in helping us provide breast cancer awareness and prevention programs to women in need throughout the area.”

Giuliana was diagnosed during a routine mammogram ordered by her doctor as part of her infertility treatment. She opted for a double mastectomy and she and Bill decided to move forward with having a baby through a surrogate.

“In less than a year, I went from the darkest day of my life when I learned I had breast cancer to the most beautiful, brightest day when our son was born,” Giuliana said. “It’s incredible how many people we can help just by sharing our story.”

Extra support

Another highlight of the event was the presentation of the 2014 Rose of Hope Award to Paul Miller of Milford, president of Miller Nissan in Fairfield, for his fundraising support of the center. Miller is one of the trustees of the Norma F. Pfriem Foundation, and presented the center with a new gift of $500,000 at the luncheon.

Breast cancer survivor Karen O’Neil, a wife, mother of two and teacher from Milford, spoke about how the breast care center helped her. She was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago at the age of 38, and also underwent a double mastectomy.

“I was so scared at the time, I could not think,” O’Neil said. “But from the first person I spoke with at the center, I felt taken care of. I hit the jackpot when I walked into the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center. It made me feel better just being there.”

Hosts include Fairfield families

The Rose of Hope Luncheon was hosted by Patti and Tom Keegan for the seventh straight year at their Greenfield Hill home in Fairfield. Twist joined Linda Blackwell and Daneen Grabe, members of the center’s advisory board and president’s council, as co-chairs of the event. All three are from Fairfield.

The DeMattia Charitable Foundation was this year’s event sponsor, with additional support provided by Cindy Citrone, who served as special program chair, and her husband Rob; the Irwin W. and Dorothy M. Nessel Family Foundation; People’s United Wealth Management; Land Rover Milford; and several other individuals and organizations.

Helping the underserved

The event supports the breast care center’s programs for women in need, including the Medically Underserved Initiative, which provides financial assistance to uninsured and underinsured women. More than 1,000 women receive screening and diagnostic services through the initiative each year, making it one of the largest programs of its kind in the area.

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