2011 Diamond Gala Marked by Hendrickson’s Heartfelt Speech
“They say there is a lining to every cloud. We never would have met if it were not for both of us having cancer,” stated Bob Hendrickson, commanding officer of the Cutter Mohawk and American Cancer Society’s Diamond Gala chairman.
Commander Hendrickson headed up the event at the Casa this past Saturday with his wife, Katie. The two share a commonality most couples could never imagine. They both became stricken with a rare form of colon cancer and met through the Cancer Society’s “Cancer Survivors’ Network,” a discussion board for all cancer survivors to share information, support and advice.
Hendrickson recalls, “I answered her questions and one thing led to another. Eventually we found ourselves talking less about cancer and more about each other.”
They met in the summer of 2006 and married in 2007! Commander Hendrickson says their nonpareil experience makes giving back to the ACS a four-star mission.
Along with the Hendricksons, state, county and local dignitaries and donors packed the ballroom to rally behind the ACS of the Florida Keys.
State Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lower Keys Medical Center’s Dr. Sandy Shultz and his wife Shelly, Key West Coast Guard Sector Captain Pat DeQuattro, NASKW Captain Pat Lefere, the late Roy Anderson of NASKW’s wife Barbara, Charley Toppino and Sons’ Frank Toppino, Monroe County Sheriff Bob Peryam, Lieutenant Cindy Peryam and other dignitaries were there to remember those lives lost and those affected by cancer.
Nearly everyone has been touched.
All of the money raised is earmarked for R.O.C.K. camp, or Reaching Out to Cancer Kids. Established in 1976, the camp, nestled 40 miles north of Orlando at Camp Boggy Creek will host children living with cancer July 7-13. The camp offers them a summer camp experience while not having to feel “different” from other peers their age.
According to Keys ACS Executive Director Carrie Helliesen, “There is horseback riding swimming, archery arts and crafts…the same wonderful things all campers enjoy and the ratio of camper to health professional and/or counselor is one to one.”
Also, any child or young adult who has been diagnosed with cancer may attend college or university on the R.O.C.K. college scholarship supported by such events as the Diamond Gala. This past year in Monroe and Dade counties, 22 students stricken with the disease received a scholarship.
Col. Hendrickson says sharing the same history as his wife helps to better understand each other’s needs and fears and has created an unparalleled bond. His time commanding the Mohawk is winding down, and when relief takes over the ship this August, he and his bride will move to Honolulu where he will assume the duties of Chief of Law Enforcement for the 14th Coast Guard District.
But, their story and dedication to finding a cure will never fade from our community.