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Courage Thru Cancer

Benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger  | Photos by Don Perry

A crowd of more than 500 people filled Minglewood Hall to support the 2018 Courage Thru Cancer fundraiser. They were there to raise important funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as well as honor a group of people with inspiring personal stories. The 2018 honorees were Kim Bowden, Jennifer Chandler, Jane Ezzell, Sonya Faught, Ethele Hilliard, Bruce Hopkins, Mike O’Neill and Stephanie Simpson.

“Courage Thru Cancer Celebration is an annual event to help champion the cause of the human spirit during cancer treatments,” explained Jon Neal, founder of Courage Thru Cancer. “Courage Thru Cancer is also a Mid-South organization that makes certain that any person diagnosed with cancer does not face their crisis alone.”

Harrison Neal and Gerry Finney, the two original sources of inspiration for this event, were on hand to welcome guests. Kevin Kane announced that Joyce Cobb was also one of the evening’s honorees. He recognized her as a “true Memphis legend and a music icon as a singer/songwriter.”

With three family members touched by cancer, the Dana Burkett Memorial Courage Award was given to the West and DeJong families. Through a video presentation, Michelle West spoke to the crowd, saying, “We all came to realize that cancer is just a diagnosis. What matters is how you deal with it — and you have to move forward.”

The evening’s music was kicked off by Gerry Finney and Friends, as guests strolled between tables laden with silent auction items. A guitar autographed by Vince Gill was an attention-getter, and there were gift certificates for dining and retail galore. And an item offering a week at Mud Camp had its fair share of bidders. There were also tickets for a variety of local entertainment, including Live at the Garden and Malco Movie passes. Artwork, health and beauty items, spa treatments and an array of gift baskets, along with a two-night stay at The Peabody and a trip to Del Ray Beach, kept bidders on their toes. Memphis Soul Revue played on the main stage and later in the evening, WALRUS performed for the After Party in the 1884 Lounge.

The 2018 Courage Thru Cancer event was chaired by Jon and Courtney Neal. Co-chairmen were Gerry Finney, Emily Bailey, Lucy Blackmon, Jeff Fioranelli and Sean Oldham. Special celebrity emcee for the evening was Danni Bruns from 98.1 The Max. Event sponsors were Bank of Bartlett, Bud Davis Cadillac, West Cancer Center, RAM Entertainment, and Sekisui. 


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