The Coastal Star

Pay it Forward: Women of Grace downsizing, moving to new venue

Karen Rogers and Nicole Pasqual are chairing Bethesda Hospital Foundation’s Women of Grace luncheon, which will honor five volunteers and one student. Photo provided

By Amy Woods

This year’s Women of Grace luncheon — the 19th annual — will return to its grassroots beginnings by downsizing the number of attendees, relocating to a smaller venue and focusing on the five female honorees as the center of attention.

“It won’t be as large as it has,” said Karen Rogers, one of two chairwomen of the event benefiting Bethesda Hospital Foundation. “We wanted to kind of make it very community driven. We wanted to kind of get people involved with their local hospital.”

The luncheon will take place Nov. 5 at the Delray Beach Marriott and will honor Debralyn Belletieri (American Association of Caregiving Youth), Deborah Dowd (Achievement Centers for Children & Families), Gail Oliver (Gift of Life Marrow Registry), Beth Schatman (Alzheimer’s Community Care) and Patricia Tormey (Forgotten Soldiers Outreach) for their volunteerism.

“These are just amazing women who deserve recognition,” Rogers said. “The organizations that they’re representing are really quite diverse.”

Also being recognized is Future Woman of Grace Isabella Diefendorf, a 17-year-old senior at American Heritage School, who founded the Blackberry Foundation. Her foundation combines Diefendorf’s love of triathlons with philanthropy by racing to raise money to help poor children in India and Tanzania.

“Isabella started a nonprofit with the money she raised from running marathons, which is incredible,” Rogers said. “The luncheon is about honoring the outstanding women in our community for the role models that they are, and it is inspiring to see these same attributes in our young women.”

Proceeds from the luncheon will support the hospital’s Center for Pediatric Development, specifically its intensive feeding program, the only one of its kind in the area. According to statistics, feeding difficulties affect more than half of premature babies and children with chronic medical conditions.

“There’s not that many of these feeding programs available,” Chairwoman Nicole Pasqual said. “Bethesda has the only local Level I neonatal intensive-care unit, so they do see a lot of at-risk babies and deal with a lot of at-risk births.”

Tickets to the luncheon cost $175. Gift baskets valued at $1,000-plus will be raffled off for $25. Premier prizes, including a $4,000 gift certificate to Private Jewelers and a $3,000 gift certificate to Dawn Edwards Salon, will be raffled for $100.

“One of the pillars of our community is our local hospital,” Pasqual said. “At one point or another, someone in your family is going to need to go. I can’t think of money better spent.” 

If You Go

What: Women of Grace luncheon

Time: 10:30 a.m. reception, 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. luncheon

Date: Nov. 5

Where: Delray Beach Marriott, 10 N. Ocean Blvd.

Cost: $175

Information: 737-7733 or bethesdahospital foundation.org

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