Filled to the brim with empty baskets of all sizes and everything from rubber ducks and toys to luggage and a barbeque grill, an Ilene Court building serves as “Basket Central,” the staging area for Ribbons of Hope, an annual fundraising project that helps area families affected by cancer.
The seventh annual Ribbons of Hope dinner and basket raffle is being held Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Bridgewater Marriott at 700 Commons Way, Bridgewater. All money raised from the event goes directly to area families suffering financially from the impact of cancer.
The event, which is held in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is described as a “celebration of the power and connections of women.”
Last year’s event raised $43,000, according to township resident Joanne Liscovitz, event co-founder. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $170,000.
Ribbons of Hope evolved as an extension of Dance for the Cure, a not-for-profit founded by cancer survivor Kathleen Cirioli, owner of Kathleen Academy of Dance in Hillsborough, and Liscovitz, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker and a teacher at Kathleen Academy.
Dance for the Cure is a troupe whose special performance includes information on women’s health care, Cirioli’s own story of survival and two unique dance presentations–an ensemble tap performance of “Go and Get Your Mammogram” to “Button Up Your Overcoat” and an uplifting lyrical dance to “I Believe.” The troupe has performed before various groups and even appeared on "The Rosie O’Donnell Show."
While the troupe often received donations that they would pass along to various organizations, Liscovitz wanted to expand the fundraising aspect. The idea of the Ribbons of Hope basket raffle was born and has steadily grown over the years, with a team completely made of volunteers and no overhead (even the Ilene Court site is donated for two months prior to the event).
“We have very generous volunteers who buy stuff all year long,” Liscovitz says. “We make this (the Ilene Court location) like our store. We shop to fill the baskets, maximize their appeal and make them as attractive as possible.”
The merchandise–all new–is grouped by theme and shrink-wrapped. This year, Ribbons of Hope will feature more than 200 baskets with such items as a trip to Ireland, a $1,600 Michele watch, orthodontic treatment, tickets to a Giants game and parking, local merchant and restaurant gift certificates and so much more–all donations.
“All the money we raise goes directly to area families in need,” Liscovitz, says. Many are referred through local hospitals or by word of mouth. The average amount donated per family is $1,000.
“It’s not a life-changing amount of money,” Liscovitz admits, but it is important when “people are so sick and they’re worried about paying their electric bill.”
“It’s a very beautiful event. Ninety-nine percent of the audience is women, many enjoying a girls’ night out or celebrating someone they lost to cancer or is a cancer survivor. The energy that you feel and the camaraderie–that’s what’s special about our event,” Liscovitz says.
Tears fill her eyes as she recalls the moment each year when she asks all cancer survivors in the audience to stand, adding, “It’s shocking.”
Tickets for Ribbons of Hope cost $80 per person and include a sit-down dinner, cash bar and door prizes. Raffle prizes are separated into two tiers, white and pink. A sheet of 25 white raffle tickets can be purchased for $30 or four sheets for $100; a sheet of 25 pink tickets costs $15 or 4 sheets for $50.
A few tickets are still available for the Oct. 25 Ribbons of Hope event. Call Liscovitz at 908-642-5341. For more information, visit www.danceforthecure.org.