Aug. 8, 2003

Mishawaka, Ind. – The American Cancer Society will hold its seventh Annual Night of the Stars on Friday, August 22 from 6-10 p.m. at the home of Drs. Juan and Maria Garcia. Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey is serving as the event’s honorary chairman, while his wife Tish is co-chair of this year’s gala.

This is a stellar opportunity to honor three extraordinary individuals, Jerry Bleck, Nancy White and Nancy Behnke Strasser, each of whom has had a significant impact on the fight against cancer in North Central Indiana. The evening will feature the award presentations, entertainment by the Notre Dame Glee Club and pianist Joe Probst and the introduction of Pink Lady Bug chocolates. Brey will be signing autographs throughout the evening.

The recipient of the Dedication Award is Jerry Bleck. Bleck has served on the American Cancer Society Board with passion and dedication since 1996. This father of four and grandfather of three has a personal stake in the fight against cancer: he lost his brother to the disease. “Cancer takes a toll on the entire family,” he said. Bleck has served as board president and led the sponsorship committee, charged with fund raising, throughout his tenure with the Society. This Indiana University graduate is a marketing specialist with Memorial Home Health Care and enjoys broadcasting a variety of sporting events, including high school football and basketball and Notre Dame basketball games, on the side.

Nancy White will receive the Inspiration award. When White was diagnosed with widely metastasized Stage 3C ovarian cancer in January of 1996, her two children were her inspiration to live, regardless of the odds. Seven years later, after a bone marrow transplant and an experimental chemotherapy program, she is doing well and has dedicated herself to the fight against cancer in a new way. Today, White coordinates an ovarian cancer support group with Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center’s Women’s Task Force. The group, calling themselves the “Gyna Girls,” is dedicated to promoting ovarian cancer awareness and fighting a disease which kills over 14,000 women annually. White is a graduate of Purdue University and currently handles the office accounting for her husband Danny’s dental practice.

The recipient of the HOPE Award is Nancy Behnke Strasser. Nancy spent much time in hospitals as she watched her father and several close friends battle cancer. However, it was not until her two-year-old niece was diagnosed with a brain tumor that she was inspired to work as a professional nutritionist. Struck by the lack of concern given to quality nutrition, she has dedicated her professional life for the past 30 years to the study of nutrition. Now the Nutrition Specialist at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center-South Bend, Nancy works with outpatients in Cardiac Rehabilitation and Radiation Oncology. “When my patients are eating well, it absolutely affects their mental, emotional and physical health,” she says. “It gives them a sense of control over their health when they need it the most.” During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son.

“Many of our events focus on raising awareness of the American Cancer Society’s extensive program of services,” said Linda Dawson, area executive director of the American Cancer Society in North Central Indiana. “Night of the Stars is a chance to focus on some amazing volunteers and what they have been able to accomplish for the fight against cancer, and in their personal lives.”

Tickets for the 2003 Night of the Stars are $100 per person and include cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Reservations are limited. Call (574) 257-9789 for ticket and event information.