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'Luncheon of Hope' still relevant in 2019

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It's been two years since the last “Luncheon of Hope” was held in Fort Frances, but following its return on Saturday, it's clear the passion that keeps the event alive is going strong.

“I think today actually went great,” said Elizabeth Leishman-Fortes, a registered nurse and co-chair of the Rainy River District Breast Health Network.

The biennial event was held at the Copper River Inn this year, and scores of women spent their early afternoon enjoying lunch, browsing penny tables and silent auctions.

Leishman-Fortes noted that even though the event wound up being a success, in the lead up to Saturday there were still some concerns.

“I was a little worried about 'Are we still relevant?' and 'Do people still want to hear from us?'” she said.

“We did have it a little bit earlier this month so we weren't sure if people would still want to attend, but I think we had a great turnout for today.”

The luncheon also featured the return of the “Quilt for a Cure” raffle. Tickets were available in the lead-up to the luncheon as well as at the event itself, with this year's quilt being donated by the Friends of Barb Ross. The winner of the quilt draw was Maureen Hayward.

Another part of the biennial luncheon is a presentation by a guest speaker, a tradition that returned this year with a talk from Christa Heibel, a businesswoman and yoga instructor from International Falls.

Leishman-Fortes noted the committee didn't want to repeat the same theme or message from the last luncheon.

“Two years ago we had an amazing group of ladies, The Butterfly Story, that was our speakers, and we thought it would be pretty hard to top,” Leishman-Fortes said of Heibel's talk.

“Not that it's a job of trying to top the speaker or presenter. It's about bringing something new to the table, so I think that having Christa Heibel from Yoga Replenish was a great choice, I think she did a great job, and I think she will give everybody a little tidbit to leave with today for some self-care and self-improvement.”

Heibel's talk focused more on the psychological benefits of yoga, as opposed to looking at the practice solely as an exercise. She explained that as a way of thinking, yoga is another tool in dealing with difficult times in life.

“Yoga doesn't say, 'Go be happy all the time' because that's not the human experience,” Heibel told the crowd.

"What yoga says is, 'Shoot for contentment.' Can we just find contentment in what is. And that includes in some really tough situations. There's nothing about cancer that is happy or fun or joyous. It's the opposite of that.

“But in those moments where we're dealing with tragedy and tough situations, can we still find thankfulness, can we find contentment?” Heibel continued.

“Because fighting what is does not change it. If there's a place where we can accept and stay positive on what we have to be grateful for, then we can stay in a more sustainable place of calm, emotional health, wellbeing and overall wellness.”

At the end of the luncheon, Leishman-Fortes also took to the small stage to thank those that were involved with putting on the luncheon, like the women who make up the Rainy River District Breast Health Network.

“A little note about the network ladies, many of these ladies have been involved since the initiation of the network and instrumental in the development of the Riverside Breast Health program,” she explained.

“Over the past 25 years, they have participated in 12 luncheons of hope, July 1st float parades, two world conferences of breast cancer . . . We also did 'Bras for a Cause' where Dr. Barry Anderson and Bernie Rittau proudly wore elaborately-decorated large cup bras and proudly strutted around a stage, all to bring awareness to breast cancer.”

Thanks were also given to the Copper River Inn, and food and beverage manager Diane Gibson.

“I cannot thank them enough for providing this beautiful venue, which I know Diane worked really hard on,” Leishman-Fortes said.

"It was freshly painted, and as of last night when we left at 9 o'clock that post was still red, but it's grey today, so I know that Diane put in many late hours getting this place ready.

“There were also many costs associated with using this space that Diane and the Copper River Inn waived for us for today, so we're so appreciative of that.”

Leishman-Fortes said that despite the question of whether the luncheon was still relevant in the lead up to Saturday, she said she knows that there is a value to what they do.

“I think it's just being together for a common cause and recognizing that women and men will still be diagnosed with breast cancer until a cure is found,” she explained.

“I just think that knowing that you have a team behind you of women who care and can try and make change for you and just bringing it back to some focus and in the forefront is important. I do believe going forward that we will be relevant.”

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