June 4, 2003 – Attendees at a fund-raiser Saturday night on St. Thomas for the territory's cancer care center will get to hear a lot about the planned facility, but they also will get to hear a concert by Roberta Flack.
What the two have in common is Dr. Bert Petersen Jr.
A native Virgin Islander who is a nationally known cancer specialist, Petersen is the lead medical planner for the center — dubbed its "physician champion."
He's also a New York City dweller who had occasion not long ago to attend a Roberta Flack concert there and to meet the artist after the show.
As Lorraine Baa-Elisha, who's chairing Saturday's event, relates it, Petersen engaged Flack in conversation "and casually said 'How would you like to come to the Virgin Islands and do a fund raiser?'"
And next thing you know, "she agreed to do a benefit concert," Baa-Elisha said. "We are not paying her anything; we are just playing her band."
The fund-raiser, which includes cocktails, dinner, presentations and the Flack concert at the end, will take place in the grand ballroom of Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. Tickets are $150, the space can accommodate about 700 people, and there are just a few tables remaining unsold, Baa-Elisha said.
Formally called "The Caribbean Gala for Cure," the event is being hosted by the Roy L. Schneider Hospital board, chief executive officer Rodney E. Miller Sr., and the hospital administrative staff.
Petersen, a surgical oncologist at New York's Beth Israel Cancer Center and director of its Family Risk Program for Breast and Ovarian Cancer, will be there to introduce the team "working collaboratively to make this happen," Baa-Elisha said.
The team members include Miller; Amos Carty, hospital chief operating officer; Dr. Thelma Ruth Watson, medical director; Darryl Smalls, chief engineer; Stanley, Beaman & Sears, the Atlanta-based architectural firm; the Jaredian Design Group, the local architectural firm; Cancer CarePoint, the recruitment firm in charge of hiring oncologists and radiologists; and Oncology Solutions, the consultant on management, professional connections, analysis and marketing.
(For background on the planning for the center, see "Cancer center will bring more than care".)
The center will be located to the east of Schneider Hospital by the parking lot and the road leading to the Lockhart property, Baa-Elisha said. It will be a two-story structure, and "we're looking at a September groundbreaking and completion maybe 18 months out," she said. The cost is projected at $5.9 million.
And while it has been referred until now simply as "the center," the facility as of Saturday night will have an official name: The Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute.
At the fund-raiser Kimelman and her husband, Ambassador Henry Kimelman, will present a check for $310,000 that will be added to $540,000 they have given in years past to Partners for Health for the cancer center, for a total contribution of $850,000, Baa-Elisha said.
There will be a second presentation Saturday evening, this one by the cancer center team. It's their Dream Maker Award, and who will receive it "is a surprise," Baa-Elisha said.
The program booklet for the event describes various "naming opportunities" for those wishing to make major contributions in support of certain areas of the cancer center. These include the lobby area, a healing garden, the chemotherapy infusion suite, the radiology suite, the medical library, the medical auditorium and the "positive appearance center."
The evening will begin with a champagne reception at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m., to be followed by the two presentations. Flack will perform with her seven-member band for about an hour and a quarter, beginning at 9:30 p.m.
Flack began recording in the 1960s but was catapulted to stardom in 1972 when her 1969 recording of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was featured in the 1972 film "Play Misty for Me." She then teamed up with a college friend, Donny Hathaway, for a series of hit duets including "Where Is the Love" in 1972, "Killing Me Softly With His Song" in 1973 and "Feel Like Makin' Love" in 1974.
After Hathaway's death in 1979, she collaborated with Luther Vandross, Miles Davis and Sadao Watanabe, then found her niche again paired with Peabo Bryson for 1983's "Tonight I Celebrate My Love." She also recorded the 1991 hit single "Set the Night to Music" with Maxi Priest.
In a 1995 interview with the Toronto Sun, Flack said that "It's not the sound of the voice; it's the truth in the performance that counts … You have to live the song."
Baa-Elisha said she's gratified by the success she and her committee have had in attracting sponsors for the fund-raiser. Many of the tables have been taken by vendors with which the hospital does business, she said, and others have been claimed by local medical professionals. "The medical community has a really good support system," she said. "Doctors are purchasing tickets for nurses and others on staff who can't afford to come. Everybody understands the need for the center."
To see whether additional tickets are available, call Baa-Elisha at 776-8311, ext. 2282.
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