By Andrew Pridgen
Appeal Staff Writer
They came clad in sequin gowns and tuxedos - black ties and diamonds.
They lined up on the red carpet (of the Carson Nugget Ballroom) and smiled for the cameras; greeting one another with gregarious embraces.
No, it wasn't Northern Nevada's version of the Oscars Saturday Night, but to a person, revelers at the Winter Wine and All that Jazz fundraiser said they were happy - happy just to be there.
Minden resident Donald Hunter, clad in a tuxedo set off with crimson bow tie, said he missed the last few years of the 13-year-old fundraiser benefiting Carson Advocates for Cancer Care as he was battling multiple myeloma, a cancer that begins in plasma cells, a type of white blood cell.
"It was hard not being able to come out, not knowing if I'd ever make another one," he said, smiling and straightening up. "Well, here I am. I haven't felt up for it for a long time. And tonight - it's a special one."
The throngs of wine enthusiasts and silent auctioneers, some 500 strong by evening's end, were abuzz with stories from shared personal experience fighting the disease which claims 560,000 Americans annually.
And nearly every attendee gave credit to the network of friends and acquaintances that Carson Advocates for Cancer Care provided.
"I'm a cancer survivor, a lot of (people) here are," said Carson resident Susan Coleman, a breast cancer survivor for five years. It was a family affair for Coleman.
Her husband, Robert, helped run the evening's silent and live auctions and mother-in-law, Sandy Tucker, attended to support her daughter-in-law. "All at (Carson Advocates) helped in many ways. It's not just financial support - it's the people, the relationships that make the difference."
Both Hunter and Coleman received their cancer treatment exclusively in Carson City; they attributed the extent of care they received here to Carson Advocates.
"That's what we've tried to build - a real network here," said Ann Proffitt, one of the event's organizers. "What people have to remember is that 92 percent of the money we raise stays right here in the community.
"I think that's what makes us so strong. Just about everybody here has been with us through personal struggle."
Though the evening featured food pairings, lively auctions and plenty of boisterous chatter, participants were careful to remember those who'd succumbed to the disease; underscoring the importance of the fundraiser.
"I volunteer here because I believe in the (organization)," said Carson resident Ron Moe. "My wife, she didn't make it. But there are a lot of people that do. A lot of good people here - for a very good cause."
The nonprofit consists of a group of some 35 local volunteers dedicated to providing everything from financial assistance to pharmaceuticals for un- and under-insured cancer patients in Nevada's rural counties.
The fundraising goal Saturday was $20,000.
"Looks like we've got a good turnout," Proffitt said. "It's just good to see all these faces."
• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.