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June 14. 2012 3:28PM

Treasured chests

Meredith auction aids cancer patients


Potential bidders perused the volunteered plaster busts of the chests of 65 women and men in the Lakes Region. Many of the women and men are cancer survivors, on display and for sale at an auction in Meredith tonight to raise money to aid cancer patients. (Dan Seufert)

MEREDITH - Amid the rumble of motorcycles in the middle of Bike Week, about 100 people gathered to bid on models of women's chests and torsos Thursday night in an event titled, “Saving Our Treasured Chests: Getting Plastered with a Purpose.”

There were smiles all around. This was a celebration of breast cancer survivors and an auction to aid breast cancer patients at Lakes Region General Hospital, organized by Shirley Stokes, 64, of Laconia, a survivor herself.

Many in attendance were breast cancer survivors or family and friends of people lost to the disease.

On display at Hart's Turkey Farm, the auction's host, were plaster castings made in the past 10 months of the bare chests of 62 women and three men, most from the Lakes Region.

Most of the busts were made of breast cancer survivors, and many were of women who have had partial or full mastectomies, Stokes said.

Once created, each of the works was painted by artists from the region, she said, with designs that make the busts less distinguishable as bodies and body parts, instead looking more like works of art.

Stokes, a four-year cancer survivor who had a full mastectomy, was urged by people at Forest Moon, a cancer support organization in Vermont, to have a cast made of her chest. She loved the experience and decided to organize the auction with the help of the hospital staff.

“I lost my treasure chest,” she said. “This gave me the idea to have a day where we could proudly show ourselves and make money for those still suffering at the same time.”

All of the money raised will go to a fund at the hospital “for people who are going through cancer treatments but are having trouble getting by,” said Ginny Witkin, a breast health nurse at the hospital.

Linda Molinaro of Campton, a breast cancer survivor of 11 years who also had a mastectomy, said she met Stokes at a survivor Christmas party and was intrigued by the idea.

“I wanted to give something back,” she said. The process of having the plaster cast made was not easy. The physical aspect was very difficult, she said. Models must pose standing, motionless, for hours while the plaster sets.

“You can't even breathe or it will come out wrong,” she said.

The emotional part of the casting was more difficult, she said.

“It brought me back to when all of this happened, which was a very tough time, so the whole thing was very emotional.”

Molinaro's bust was painted beautifully with lace. Stokes' bust, which had a more broad design, was the first to sell. It went for $75.

Witkin paid tribute to Stokes' effort organizing the auction.

“To take something as horrible as cancer and make it into an art form, and use it as a way to bring the community together, that's amazing,” Witkin said.

dseufert@newstote.com


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