Glenelg Country School students use their civic leadership skills to organize a reception for breast cancer survivors

A reason to celebrate


When Tina Beerman was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2001, her life changed and so did her career.

Beerman, a nurse for 25 years and an independent physician consultant, became clinical manager at the Center for Breast Care at Howard County General Hospital.

"[My diagnosis] is the complete reason why I do what I do now," Beerman said.

While working at the hospital, Beerman organized a Celebrate Life reception last May for breast cancer survivors, complete with food, a DJ, a magician, games and prizes.

"I just wanted to provide these women with an opportunity to celebrate their lives and celebrate their survival over breast cancer," Beerman said.

Nearly a year later, three Glenelg Country School students are following in Beerman's footsteps.

Sophomores Brittany Henderson and Alexa Quackenbush and junior Jemelle Williams have organized a Celebrate Life reception to be held Sunday at their school's Mulitz Theater.

"My mom is a nurse, and I've always been interested in the medical field," Quackenbush said. "I was interested in doing something for the community that also included my interest in the medical field."

The other girls share Quackenbush's enthusiasm. Henderson said she wants to be an oncologist, and Williams said she would like to be a pediatrician specializing in oncology.

The Celebrate Life idea came about last year when a senior at Glenelg Country wanted to organize a Celebrate Life reception. With graduation approaching, the student ran out of time, and the event did not happen.

David Weeks, the civic leadership teacher at Glenelg Country, asked Williams, his former student, if she would like to take it on. She agreed.

"It will help to gather people together and give the patients the opportunity to thank their doctors for what they've done," Williams said. But with singing, writing college applications and organizing a fashion show to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims, Williams was pressed for time.

Henderson and Quackenbush, Weeks' current students, joined the effort when they heard Williams needed help. And the planning began.

Weeks and the students contacted Beerman about the event she organized and to see how they could make theirs work. Weeks met Beerman two years ago when his wife, Marie, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"We began to talk about how it's really important to give thanks to those people who make it possible for my wife to live," Weeks said. "I had some students who expressed an interest in wanting to do something with the hospital, and I thought what a wonderful opportunity."

Beerman told the students she did not have the time to organize another Celebrate Life reception, but she would help spread the word at the hospital and offer planning advice.

"I say take the ball and run with it," Beerman said. "That's pretty much what [the students] have done. ... They really are the core group that are making this happen."

The students decided to host the event this month after Beerman told them her May reception did not draw the crowd she was hoping for, probably because of Mother's Day, Henderson said.

With a $1,000 budget, including donations from a pharmaceutical company and Brian's Catering Service in Marriottsville, who is supplying the food, the students purchased more than 500 invitations and landed a DJ. Face painting, popcorn and cotton candy are planned, too.

"I think we were pretty good at delegating jobs," Henderson said. "We each had a job to get done, and I don't think it fell on one person."

Dr. Stacey Keen, a radiologist in Howard County, will be the featured speaker at the reception. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and wrote Defeating Breast Cancer: A Physician's Story of Healing, Martial Arts and Life.

"I'll be giving information of what we can do for early detection of breast cancer, and then I'll describe my personal experience," Keen said. "There is life before, during and after a breast cancer diagnosis."

The students' Celebrate Life project was not a school requirement.

"We want to go out and help and make a difference," Quackenbush said. "[Breast cancer] is a tough, rocky road, and I think they could use all the support they can get. ... They've been through such a hard time, and it's a good to have an afternoon celebrating life. That's what it's about."

The girls hope to make Celebrate Life a tradition at Glenelg Country.

"We're planning on making it annual, and when we graduate, we'll pass it down," Henderson said.

The Celebrate Life reception is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Mulitz Theater at Glenelg Country School, 12793 Folly Quarter Road. The event is free and open to the public. Information: 954 817-1865, or

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