Nurse Natalie Benefit

Pictured above are Mary Hitchcock and
Carla Fine selling raffle tickets

The community of San Pedro turned out in force Saturday at Central Park for a benefit held for Natalie Palen, one of the town's favorite people. Nurse Natalie, who has midwifed many of the children on the island, was diagnosed as having cancer of the breast and was flown to Houston last Thursday. Besides lacking health insurance, Natalie and Sam, her husband faced other expenses such as travel and lodging. The most pressing need was BZ$7000 necessary immediately for a biopsy.

When word of the diagnosis spread, the townspeople sprang into action. Mary and Malcolm Hitchcock of Fido's courtyard began to put together a fund-raiser but volunteers were so quick to respond that it quickly took on a life of its own. The San Pedro Sun and Taca provided tickets to Belize and the U.S. Claire Kjorlein of the Reality Cafe had already arranged a place for Natalie and Sam to stay when they arrived in Houston. Liquor and bar supplies came from Cholo's, Cuello's and Gonzalo Quinto among others while Milo's donated ice. One group arranged a bake sale to take place at the park. Another garnered volunteers to cook and found people to sell the food to the crowd. Barry Bowen gave 20 cases of beer, 25 cases of soft drinks and the use of a tent.The town board donated the use of the park and tarpaulins and arranged electricity while someone rustled up chairs and tables. Liquor and soft drink donations and raffle prizes began coming in so rapidly that it was hard to keep up with them. The benefit reached its financial goal and then some, with a gross of over $8,000.

The fund-raiser began with music from Chris Burke, a dee-jay from San Ignacio working with donated equipment. The Youths Turtle Shell Band played, followed by Tim Budd, MC extraordinaire singing, playing guitar, raffling donated items and keeping the program moving along. Dennis Wolfe, George Cadle and Dale Wallace Jr. of the Cool Breeze Band were then joined by Al Obando from Stann Creek playing keyboards. Even the reclusive Charlie Worthington joined in on drums, to the delight of everyone, musicians and spectators alike. Albert and Tony, the Reef Rockers were joined by "Doc Paul" on African drum and J.J on guitar. As they began their second song, winter arrived in the form of our first true north wind of the season. What began as a sprinkle turned into a drizzle and progressed to a solid rainstorm that refilled cisterns all over the island. The musical entertainment was finished, leaving the hundred or so participants trapped in the bar area for an hour and a half.

A visitor to the island, Dr. Kenneth Bartholomew, is the chairman of the Department of Radiology at the Medical Center of Bowling Green, Kentucky in the U.S. Passing the park, he noticed all of the activity and asked what was going on. When told of the situation, he was overwhelmed by the response of the townspeople, saying that he had never witnessed such a display of voluntary community action and that he would like to participate. He pledged to "pay for transportation from San Pedro to Bowling Green, Kentucky, hospitalization, Rx, including radiation and/or chemotherapy and all diagnostic procedures as needed without question."

Although it is impossible to mention all of the people who donated time, effort and money, the following is a list of those who donated items for raffle: Playador, Captain Morgans, Rock's Shopping Center, Belicolor, Florasol, Aquarius Salon, Coconut's Bar, Fido's Courtyard, Belizean Arts, The Book Stop, Lagoon Restaurant, La Margarita Restaurant, the Offshore Express, Susan Breton, Belize Laundromat, Island Air, Barrier Reef Restaurant, Hidden Valley Inn, Lynn Graham, The Belize Dive Center, Deborah Phillips, the Salty Dog, the Mayan Princess, and 4 Fort Street Guest House.

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