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Putting cancer on ice: Boutique at the Rink shopping event raises money to fight the disease

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BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Ben Calderon held three hockey sticks he planned to purchase almost as tightly as he did memories of his late grandmother.

Cancer killed his grandmother in 2018.

First breast cancer.

Then lung cancer.

Then Parkinson’s piled on.

The Bethlehem resident opened the photo gallery on his smartphone. He pointed to his grandmother holding her new granddaughter in her arms.

Phil Gianficaro

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LehighValleyNews.com

Ben Calderon, of Bethlehem, whose grandmother died of a double bout of cancer.

“Here’s the thing,” Calderon said. “When I put my daughter in her arms, my grandmother suddenly stopped shaking. She stopped shaking.”

Moved by the recollection, Calderon collected a final thought.

“But nothing,” he said, “was able to stop her cancer.”

Cancer wide shot.jpg

Phil Gianficaro

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LehighValleyNews.com

Vintage dinnerware is the among many items up for purchase at the Boutique at the Rink cancer fundraiser event at Schaffer Ice Rink in Bethlehem on Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Calderon was among hundreds who descended upon the Earl E. Schaffer Municipal Ice Rink to support the Premiere Night of Boutique at the Rink.

To help put an end to this disease that kills 609,000 Americans each year.

To help put an end to this disease that afflicts 1.9 million Americans each year.

Caring folks showing up at the hockey rink.

To help put cancer on ice.

In its 48th year, the Boutique event sells donated new and gently used clothing, household items, antiques, collectibles, vintage clothing, toys, games, sporting equipment and high-end boutique items. All of the items were donated over 14 days in May.

Run by more than 300 community volunteers, the event benefits three organizations serving cancer patients and their families in the Lehigh Valley: Cancer Support Community of the Greater Lehigh Valley, St. Luke’s Cancer Center and St. Luke’s Hospice.

Premiere Night at the Boutique at the Rink cancer fundraiser

Last year’s event raised more than $311,000. But judging from the incredible turnout on Tuesday, this year’s event, which runs through June 1, may shatter that figure.

There were dresses and slacks, gowns and mink coats, shorts and T-shirts. There were dolls and dishware, guitars and trumpets, and a wooden scooter so old it appeared perhaps Moses might have ridden it down from Mount Sinai with a tablet under each arm.

The 20,000-square-foot boutique venue resembles a giant department store, with racks and racks of clothing and multiple tables of every item one can imagine short of electronics.

“It’s so very important for people to support this event.”

Sally Rissmiller, cancer survivor, Bangor

Volunteer Barb Vinci knows the importance of the boutique event. She’s battled breast cancer.

As she surveyed the room, she said, “There’s got to be over one million items in here. And there’s more stored away that we didn’t have room to put out.”

The line for the 3 p.m. opening of the boutique began forming at 11 a.m. Among the first in line was Sally Rissmiller of Bangor who was looking to shop and save — both money and lives.

Cancer NEw.jpg

Phil Gianficaro

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LehighValleyNews.com

Supporters of the Boutique at the Rink cancer fundraising shopping event poured in by the hundreds on Tuesday afternoon.

Rissmiller is another who knows. The 64-year-old beat breast cancer.

“I know what it’s like for some of the people we’re here trying to help,” she said. “When you hear you have cancer, it puts a little part of fear in you. But you also learn you’re stronger than you ever imagined.

“It’s so very important for people to support this event.”

There were large framed photos and prints, and golf clubs and golf balls, and athletic balls of every type, and mirrors, bird cages, telescopes, and leaf blowers to blow cancer out of this world.

Dave Jacobs was smiling. On this, his 74th birthday, and drinking in the incredible support of the community that filled the boutique event, the longtime volunteer couldn’t have wished for a more fitting present.

“Only the best of what’s donated goes on the floor,” he said. “It’s sorted thoroughly. If it has a stain or a missing button or is torn, we don’t put it out. We only put out the best so we can sell it to help fight cancer.”

The Boutique’s rejected items are not disposed of. Rather, it has contracted with a New Jersey for-profit, Turnkey Enterprises. Turnkey in turn has contracts with the federal government and other organizations that purchase the clothing.

There were wall clocks and American flags, and chests of coolers and wind chimes. Christmas wreaths and Valentine’s Day knickknacks, and puzzles and sneakers and sandals and bedroom slippers. There were women’s undergarments and men’s outerwear. There were tool sets and purses. And a chair large enough to be classified as a throne for a King — situated just a few feet away from an old 45 by The King — Elvis.

“We have been so blessed by our community,” said Carol Jacoby, a member of the leadership team that organized the event. “We’ve received an enormous amount of donations this year, the most, I believe, than ever before.

“We cannot thank the community enough for their support. We need to keep fighting against cancer.”

A crowd awaits at the Premiere Night of the Boutique at the Rink

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