By SUSAN WADEGLEN SPEY, NY — The more than 200 attendees at the fourth annual Can’t Hurt Steel gala agreed that in keeping with the theme of the event, “It’s a Wonderful …
By SUSAN WADE
GLEN SPEY, NY — The more than 200 attendees at the fourth annual Can’t Hurt Steel gala agreed that in keeping with the theme of the event, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it was indeed a wonderful evening.
The Can’t Hurt Steel Foundation was started in response to a question repeatedly asked by J.J. Hanson as he reached the end stage of his battle with cancer: “How do we help people?”
This story was told by his wife, Kristen Hanson, who spoke of her late husband as a man who loved his community and who never gave up. Can’t Hurt Steel embodies the principles of community and helping people in need. The foundation is about “never giving up hope, helping each other find the strength and courage to endure life’s greatest difficulties, allowing it to bring us together and make us stronger.”
To that end, the foundation has provided financial support to more than 30 local families experiencing loss and illnesses, funneling more than $50,000 into the community to date. Memorial scholarships totaling nearly $10,000 have been awarded to graduating Eldred seniors in Hanson’s name, and donations of funds and equipment have been made to the Mackenzie Elementary School for its wellness program. Free fitness programs have been sponsored and the foundation is working with the DEC to create a fitness trail at Hickock Brook Multiple Use Area in the Town of Highland.
Attendance at the event has nearly doubled since its inception. As in past years, it was held at Mountainview Manor in Glen Spey.
Franklin Trapp, producer at the Forestburgh Theatre, was the keynote speaker. He challenged the attendees to “celebrate the wonderful world that we live in, the wonderful life that we live, and most importantly, the wonderful people who make up the fabric of this community.” He concluded with a quote from Don Quixote: “Maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
Cathy Daboul was the recipient of the Community Service Award, presented by Meg Blaut. Daboul was lauded for her dedication to the betterment of her community and her focus on health and wellness initiatives. Daboul’s dedication to building a better world around her is what makes her this year’s recipient, Blaut said.
Ryan Gillespie was honored with the Hometown Hero Award. Gillespie is a teacher at the Center for Discovery of those on the autism spectrum. In presenting the award, Mandy Scully noted that this award has in the past been given to first responders. She said that Gillespie likewise guides people through vulnerable and difficult situations as a teacher, coach, mentor and role model.
In presenting the Can’t Hurt Steel Award to Pam Kocher, Hanson said that the award is not about physical strength.
“It’s about never giving up. It’s the idea that the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire; that we can face life’s greatest challenges and turn them into something meaningful,” she said. “J.J. admired Pam and how she bravely shared her journey battling cancer. She was one of the first who was willing to do so, so very publicly. Her strength and her willingness to be vulnerable inspired J.J. to share his own cancer journey just a few months later.”
Kocher parlayed her experiences of dealing with the effects of chemotherapy into a venture of fitting other women diagnosed with cancer with wigs that are styled with love at her beauty salon. Lauded as one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet, Hanson said that Kocher’s selflessness embodies Can’t Hurt Steel’s motto of “finding strength through helping others.”
More information about the foundation can be found at www.canthurtsteelfoundation.org.