American Cancer Society Gala honorees Kerry Owen and Susan Harper, both cancer survivors, share the transformative power of hope and courage at this year’s Hot Springs gala.
By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Jeff Fuller-Freeman | Shot on location at the Promenade in downtown Hot Springs
Kerry Owen and Susan Harper were born the same year at Levi Hospital in Hot Springs and have been friends ever since. In addition to their self-admitted propensity to be the life of any party, they have both courageously confronted cancer. As an inspiration to others, these “sisters of the heart” will be honored by the American Cancer Society at this year’s Summer in Hot Springs – New York Style Gala. Dressed as the “New York City Rockette Grandmothers,” Kerry and Susan look forward to sharing their personal cancer stories at the gala – with their signature-style of laughter and love that guarantees a good time.
Kerry, a retired high school teacher of drama and communications, is a nine-year cancer survivor. From her own experience, she learned the ACS is a “treasure trove of resources, information, support and open, loving arms.”
Susan, visitor services director at Garvan Woodland Gardens, turned to ACS during her father’s battle with lung cancer. “Ten years later, I had breast cancer and have been very appreciative of the American Cancer Society’s role in finding a cure. It’s a great organization and has made a huge difference in the treatment and prognosis of cancer patients.”
These ladies embrace the opportunity to offer hope to others facing this often-deadly disease. And according to this dynamic duo, having fun at the same time is a must. “Since my sister of the heart and I are known to be a bit outrageous at times – we must laugh and celebrate our joy as survivors – we are following the gala theme of New York in our own unique way,” Kerry notes. “We are the American Cancer Society New York City Rockette Grandmothers. But I also regard this honor as a unique opportunity for us to share our story and our heart.”
Another favorite ACS celebration is the Garland County Relay for Life. “It’s a joyous event that brings together patients, survivors, family members and folks who simply want to help us be the best we can be,” Kerry explains. “They lead the charge for optimum physical and mental health care for all those touched by this insidious disease and are great sponsors for the American Cancer Society’s important research and resource mission.”
Gala chairman Ann Shedelbower notes that the positive nature of these two women is undeniable. “When I think of Kerry and Susan, I immediately smile. Their energy and spirit for life, fun and their community inspires me and so many others,” she continues. “So, not only for those who have cancer, will have cancer, or have survived cancer, they send a message of hope, courage and the power of support.”
When asked about cancer and their continued confidence for finding the best in life – the humor and hope in each day – their simple reply with hug for a good measure is: “How lucky can two women be?”
Words to Live By:
“Cancer will change our lives forever, but it will never defeat us.” – Kerry
Highlights of the Event:
“Superb entertainment, a delicious meal, and most importantly, raising money to help find a cure for cancer.” – Susan
“Dancing, laughter and fellowship at the Arlington Hotel – all to support a tremendous cause.” – Kerry