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Sorority sisters’ idea for fundraising took off

8/24/2020, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Atlanta native Kathy Smith never imagined that she would be spearheading efforts to raise money to help breast cancer patients for nearly 20 years. Nor did she ever envision the fundraising event that started it all, The Pink Affair, would grow from an auction of new and barely used items in her sister’s living room to a black-tie soiree at a major Buckhead hotel that’s raised almost $1.2 million.

“When I look back, I can’t help but laugh because it’s come so far,” she said. Smith had completed her studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and was married and living in north Fulton County when she decided to expand her circle of friends by joining an alumni group of Zeta Tau Alpha, her college sorority.

The sorority’s longtime philanthropy has been breast cancer education and awareness, and Smith and her sorority sisters were routinely volunteering with the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure. But one night in 2001, sitting in the living room of the home of Judy Suggs — Smith’s biological sister and sorority sister — the group pledged to do more.

“We decided we would have a little auction in my sister’s home,” said Smith, now a resident of Johns Creek. On the auction block, they put wedding gifts that might otherwise have been regifted, barely used exercise equipment, even gutter guards. They raised $1,800 — enough to be inspired to make The Pink Affair an annual event that eventually outgrew Suggs’ home, neighborhood clubhouses and most hotel ballrooms outside the Perimeter.

Though the size and location may have changed through the years, the mission and its chief cheerleader and organizer have not. Supporters credit Smith, who is married with one grown son.

“As a fundraiser, Kathy walks on water,” said Bill Stubblefield, a longtime Pink Affair supporter. “She’s energetic and creative, and it’s hard to say no to Kathy when she approaches you about TurningPoint.”

Since 2013, TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation, a nonprofit in Sandy Springs, has been receiving all the net proceeds from The Pink Affair, totaling nearly $1 million.Jill Binkley, a two-time cancer survivor and a physical therapist who founded TurningPoint, said Smith and The Pink Affair have been a godsend.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” Binkley said.

TurningPoint uses the money from The Pink Affair to ensure that all patients, including the uninsured and underinsured, receive the physical therapy, massage therapy, counseling, exercise and nutritional guidance they need, she said. Smith said Binkley and her staff at TurningPoint are “all very much like family.”

“Everybody has a passion for TurningPoint and for rehabilitation, so breast cancer patients can go along with their new normal without any discomfort,” she said. Patients and families say the therapy available through TurningPoint is life-changing. About 32,000 patients from around the city and Southeast have visited the nonprofit.

Stubblefield’s wife, Alice, went to TurningPoint after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and having a double mastectomy, radiation, cancer and then lymphedema.

“She absolutely loved TurningPoint,” Stubblefield said. “They helped her with the physical parts, but more importantly what they really had done was help her mental attitude, her ability to cope and feel positive about life.” Alice was able to return to the golf course and “put me to shame,” he said. “But most importantly, she could really enjoy our two grandchildren.”

Stubblefield said his wife, who died in 2018, felt so strongly about the help TurningPoint offers cancer patients that she came home one day and announced that she had volunteered his services on its executive board.He served on the board from 2008 to 2013 and returned for another term earlier this year. ‘As a fundraiser, Kathy walks on water. She’s energetic and creative, and it’s hard to say no to Kathy when she approaches you about TurningPoint.’

MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE PINK AFFAIR

Now a black-tie event, The Pink Affair has raised nearly $1 million for TurningPoint, a nonprofit in Sandy Springs that provides physical therapy and other services to breast cancer patients. Until 2013, proceeds from the event went to the Susan G.Komen Foundation and local groups supporting breast cancer patients.Adapting to COVID-19¦ This year’s Pink Affair was set for March 28 at Buckhead’s InterContinental Hotel.It was to be a sellout with a sit-down dinner, live entertainment and 500 guests.¦ Those plans went out the window with the coronavirus, and the gala ended up being livestreamed, with guests encouraged to get cozy in their pajamas and watch from the comfort of their couches.¦Less than 5% of ticket holders requested a full or partial refund, Smith said. And, without the expense of the ballroom rental and other live-event costs, the 2020 gala had net profits about equal to those from 2019, she said. Read more: myturningpoint.org/the-pink-affair 

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