- When Mary D. Belesis
succumbed to a swift and aggressive cancer in 2005, a light that shone brightly throughout Southampton and everywhere Mary went was extinguished. But thanks to family and friends that light once again burns as anyone could see at the Third Annual Mary D. Belesis Memorial Benefit for the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research at Four Seasons
Caterer Southampton on Tuesday, May 19.
For the third year in a row, the Southampton community turned out to remember a much loved and respected neighbor, the late Mary D. Belesis, and to raise money for an organization searching for the cause of the pancreatic cancer that took Mary's life after a very brief illness. Shortly after Mary's death, a friend passed along an e-mail she had received about the work of The Lustgarten Foundation and their mid-summer fundraising walk to Mary's daughters Martha Belesis
and Yvonne Belesis Berinato
who immediately decided to organize a team to walk in the annual event. As Martha explains "we were so thrilled to learn about their efforts in the research of the disease and prevention, early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer that after the walk we vowed to do something bigger. Our first party was at home with a handful of friends and family - just an open house, Chinese auction and yard sale, and each year we have grown and raised more money," she remembered fondly.
Keyboard Charles & Company played vintage rock to the delight of the crowd.
To pay tribute to their mother, Martha created this fitting honor, and friends and the business community rallied to their efforts and the cocktail party/silent auction has grown quickly over the last few years.
Martha explained how her mother's disease not only inspired them to create the event but also changed the direction of her own life. "My mother was on her winter vacation in January 2005 with my father Mike when she received the awful new that she was in stage 4 of a very aggressive cancer. They returned to Southampton and at the end she spent her last days at East End Hospice
. I was so moved by the staff's work that I enrolled in the special post graduate program in end stage palliative care at NYU
and now am approaching my third year at the hospice".
This year the organizers opted for Four Seasons Caterer Southampton as the location for their party. And a great choice it turned out to be as guests were able to take advantage - finally- of the lovely patio. The Four Seasons staff one of the friendliest and most professional on the scene constantly worked the room plying the guests with mouthwatering hors d'oeuvres such as chicken quesadilla, crab cakes, mini chicken and beef pot pies and tiny pizzas laden with prosciutto and heirloom tomatoes. Jean Mackenzie Koster
and Linda Marie Paul
of Four Seasons were on hand to make sure that the evening ran smoothly for their old friends.
Guests enjoyed the Chinese auction.
Throughout cocktails, the crowd of close to a hundred mulled over the many offerings in the Chinese Auction, placed bids in the silent auction for a golf outing at The Bridge Golf Club or put their money down for a chance at the 50/50 drawing. Keyboard Charles & Company kept the energy upbeat performing a variety of baby-boomer familiar tunes like "Kansas City" and "You Were Always on My Mind".
In true family style, Martha, her sister Yvonne and her husband Greg Berinato
handled the drawing for the silent auction. It seemed for a while that every other pull was announced as Sean Hattrick
. Hardly a surprise as the generous Sean had purchased yards of tickets! Laurie Butler
was another multiple winner. Tim Norton
was pleased to have won several gifts for his wife. Gina Carter
was tickled to get a pail filled with Tate's Cookies. Prizes included a number of beautifully packed gift baskets from Pure Cool Product's, Broken Color Works, Topiaire, H. Groome, Southampton Wines and more. Gift certificates offering diverse goodies and services came from Hamptons Car Wash, Lynch's Garden center, Brewsters Seafood Market, The American Hotel
, Muse Restaurant, Fellingham's, Laundry Restaurant Robert James Salon, Pier One Imports, Starbucks
Regal Cinemas and Hamptons Bay School of Dance. A little something for every taste and interest
Gregory Berinato who is a Senior VP at Beau Hulse
Realty Group where his wife Yvonne is a sales associate, smiled when folks commented on the amount of prizes from the business community and noted," Mary was so filled with love for the community and is so missed, everyone says yes before we can even ask them to help. When they see Martha or Yvonne they see Mary who worked in the community as a para-legal secretary to a number of businesses and they are extremely generous".
Yvonne noted that this year despite the recession and everyone feeling the pinch they were able to expand their sponsor base considerably. "We received tremendous support from Vivian Eyre
of Partners for Women's Growth, WLIU and Topiaire who not only donated several gift baskets but the gorgeous table arrangements of camellias floating in glass bowls". Financial support also came from Souththrifty Drug, Meredith Cohen
, Beau Hulse Realty Group, Eugene Greco DDS
, Dianne MacDonald
, Wonderland Day Care, Martha Belesis and Dr. Richard C. Nesi
Martha, Yvonne and Greg were delighted with the way the event turned out and attracted so much community involvement. Martha noted, "My mother had a real zest for life and lived every day to its fullest. When I asked her near the end if she had any regrets she said" No I lived each day as I wanted and few people can say that." What a legacy to leave to us and her grandchildren".
The family was unanimous in their passion for the work of the Lustgarten Foundation which was founded by a number of folks at Cablevision to honor Marc Lustgarten
, Cablevision vice chairman and chairman of Madison Square Garden who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Prior to his passing, Mr. Lustgarten inspired the establishment of The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Cablevision's Charles Dolan
serves as the foundation's chairman and Cablevision underwrites all the operating costs so that every dollar raised goes to research. One of the Foundation's key missions is heightening the public's awareness of pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention and providing informational support for pancreatic cancer patients, their families, and friends. Thanks to the dedication and efforts of the Belesis and Berinato families they are well on their way in doing just that.