Front row: H&C founder/chairman Sheila Kussner is flanked by child prodigy Ethan Bortnick and music maestro, Marvin Hamlisch Standing: H&C executive director Suzanne O'Brien; singer Marie-Christine; co-chairs Heleena Wiltzer and Pauline Segel
Photo by Howard Kay
Hope & Cope co-presidents Serena Black and Jeannette Valmont
Hope & Cope, the Jewish General Hospital's psychosocial cancer support service recently crowned a yearlong series of celebratory events with their Soirée Fantastique at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim. Founded by Montreal cancer survivor/philanthropist Sheila Kussner, O.C., O.Q., H&C's program has been replicated worldwide as the model for excellence in cancer care volunteerism.
Soirée proceedings began with a warm welcome from H&C co-president Jeannette Valmont, who thanked the 450 guests for their support. Co-chairs Heleena Wiltzer and Pauline Segel introduced H&C's chairman, Sheila Kussner, who immediately credited her husband Marvyn as being central to her success. "This milestone is as much his as mine," she noted. The formidable Kussner then quoted Mahatma Gandhi: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." She thanked volunteers and donors for being so generous with their time and money before announcing that almost $1.7 million had been raised. Nicknamed Sheila Corleone by the hospital, Kussner also saluted her "right arm" woman, H&C executive director Suzanne O'Brien.
Guests were entertained by virtuoso musician/composer Marvin Hamlisch, 10-year-old American keyboard prodigy Ethan Bortnick, local chanteuse Marie-Christine and Paul Chacra's 1945 orchestra. Hamlisch mastered the ivories as he performed an ear-boggling array of musical genres. His Oscar-winning song The Way We Were and A Chorus Line's What I Did for Love, were interpreted by Haitian Québecoise, Marie-Christine. Introducing Nobody Does it Better, from the film The Spy Who Loved Me, he effused: "of course they wanted me for James Bond!" Who knew that Hamlisch is a standup comic when he's not sitting down? Hamming it up kosher style, he kibbitzed: "I go to a Reform Temple, in fact they're so reform, they're closed on Jewish holidays! Aiming his arsenal of comedic ammunition at Bortnick, Hamlisch amused: "It's a good thing you're Jewish kid, 'cuz otherwise I'd have already killed you!" For his part, show-kid Bortnick cut a wide swath at the concert grand and also sang 'Satchmo-style', for Louis Armstrong's whiskey-voice classic, What a Wonderful World. Poking fun at himself, the pint-sized Bortnick generally oozed cuteness from his pudgy, piano-playing hands to his tiny patent leather shoes. The show ended with rapturous applause and a standing ovation.
Hope and Cope is a psychosocial service which assists patients and families in coping with the physical, emotional and social effects of cancer. This privately funded organization operates from the Jewish General Hospital's oncology clinic, radiotherapy clinic, palliative care unit and Wellness Centre. Situated in a renovated duplex, the Wellness Centre/Lou's House is a relaxing retreat offering respite for patients during and immediately after treatment. Its free services include coping skills workshops, fitness training, yoga, nutritional counseling (with fully equipped kitchen), a lush landscaped garden and creative arts therapies. Inquiries and donations are welcome: (514) 340-8255; 3755 Côte-Sainte-Catherine Rd. Pavilion E, Room E-730.1;Wellness Centre: (514) 340-3616; 4635 Côte Ste. Catherine Rd. http://www.hopeandcope.ca/; http://jgh.ca/en/HopeCopenaomi.firstname.lastname@example.org