Friday, September 16, 2005

Atlanta Lesbian Cancer Survivors Group Celebrates 10 Years

(Link) What started off as a backyard support party for a friend battling cancer has become the largest predominately lesbian gathering in the Southeast.

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JIC Post:
Southern Voice

AFTER ALMOST 1,400 PEOPLE showed up for the Atlanta Lesbian Cancer Initiative Garden Party last year — more than doubling the expectations of organizers — ALCI representatives got a call from the operators of Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, where the event was held.

“They called us the week after last year’s party, saying how much they enjoyed it, but also how they thought we’d outgrown them,” says Linda Ellis, ALCI executive director.

To accommodate the more than 1,200 people expected to attend this year’s Garden Party on Sept. 25, ALCI moved it to the Georgia Freight Depot downtown.

In its 10th year, the Garden Party is billed as the largest predominately lesbian gathering in the Southeast. It serves as the group’s biggest fund-raising event each year.

“About a quarter or a third of our budget each year is through the Garden Party,” Ellis says. “But it’s also become a community outreach event.”

The history of the Garden Party closely parallels that of ALCI, Ellis says.

About a dozen women attended the first event in 1996, which was held in the backyard of Linda McGehee and convened as a support party for her ALCI co-founder Dennie Doucher, who was battling breast cancer.

The event evolved into an annual tradition, and ALCI blossomed into a recognized resource for women dealing with cancer, their partners and other supporters.

ThE 10th Garden Party also marks another change for ALCI, which officially broadens its scope with a name change to the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative at the upcoming fund-raiser.

“We know a little bit more about lesbian health in general, and we know in addition to having a higher risk for various forms of cancer, lesbians have a higher risk of heart disease and other illnesses,” Ellis says. “The Health Initiative is really going to work to promote advocacy and disease prevention — we’ve got to get us as a community living healthier lives.”

Admission to the event is free, but the ALHI benefits from money raised through donations, raffle ticket sales and bids in a silent auction.

A black 2006 Harley Davidson Sportster 883 and a red 2006 Vespa scooter are among items included in the party’s raffle. Tickets for each raffle are $50 and sales are capped at 350 tickets to increase the chances of winning.

“Women and men seem to love both of those prizes over the last couple of years,” Ellis says.

Travel packages from the lesbian-owned Olivia Cruises headline the list of silent auction items, Ellis says. Other silent auction items include passes to restaurants, artwork, clothing and other travel packages, she says.

PRIOR TO the Garden Party, ALHI plans a VIP Host reception, during which the organization presents its annual Dennie Doucher Healing Angel Award.

This year’s award goes to Dorothy Gallaway, founder and director of Family Health Enterprise, a health clinic located in Cabbagetown.

Gallaway started the clinic in 1994.

“I wanted to practice offering total health care — mind, body and spirit — and I wanted to do it my way,” Gallaway says. “I wanted to offer it to underserved communities — to those in need, to lesbians and gays, to elderly and to children.”

Gallaway adds that she is deeply moved to receive the award.

“I do what I feel is my best for people who come into the clinic, and for that to be recognized in such an honorable fashion — I’m floored,” she says.