For Artpark production supervisor Christine C. "Coop" Cooper of Newfane, a benefit on Monday for cancer research will be deeply personal -- her father and a close friend died of the disease last year within five months of each other.
"Losing two loved ones to cancer was devastating," Miss Cooper said. "Because our father so badly wanted to live and be cured of the disease, my sister and I felt that we needed to keep his memory alive."
"The search for a cure" benefit will be held at Artpark in memory of William H. "Butch" Cooper of Newfane, who died of melanoma last Thanksgiving Day at age 59, and Mary F. Marvin, 42, of Lockport, who died of breast cancer last April.
"We believe that our father would be more than proud of this benefit to find a cure for melanoma," Miss Cooper said.
The four-hour program will begin on the terrace outside the main theater at 6 p.m. with food and entertainment, which will include clowns and a pianist. A Chinese auction will also be held on the terrace for scores of items ranging from antiques and dinner and theater packages to an autographed Buffalo Bills football.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and Niagara Hospice will have information tables set up to provide brochures on cancer treatment and research.
A duet by Miss Cooper's sister, Donna Hill, and Mary Marvin's sister, Glenda Chausse, both of Newfane, will kick off a variety of performances in the main theater at 8 p.m.
The two women will sing "What a Wonderful Day," written by Trisha Walker in Nashville to honor breast cancer survivors.
"We are reaching out to the community to help us work for a solution to this most devastating illness," Miss Cooper said.
When her father was diagnosed four years ago with melanoma, the news hit his family and friends hard, she said. "But knowing the fighter he was, we were certain that he would beat the disease."
After her father underwent many surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the family realized that it would take more than a fight to beat the deadliest form of skin cancer -- it would take a cure.
Butch Cooper, a construction worker and avid sportsman, spent his last hours in the care of Niagara Hospice workers. As it has done with more than 2,500 patients since it was formed 11 years ago, Niagara Hospice made the end of Cooper's life as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
"We would never have been able to bring him from the hospital to spend the time he had left peacefully at home without the help of Niagara Hospice," Miss Cooper said.
Until there is a cure for cancer, Hospice workers step into the breach.
"Because we live in an area where a lot of cancer research is taking place, doctors, patients and their families live in the real hope that a cure will be found," said Caron Modeas, community relations coordinator for Niagara Hospice. "Until that happens, Hospice is the other side of the coin. We bring care and emotional support so that patients and their families can enjoy the time they have remaining."
All money raised by the benefit will go to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Tickets can be purchased at the Artpark box office or by phoning 754-9001
The organizers hope to make the cancer benefit an annual event, said Susan Stimson, the stage manager for Artpark at the Church.