Although the weather may have been windy and freezing cold on Saturday, March 4, the inside of Westminster Presbyterian Church, host site for the 2017 Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund Benefit Concert, permeated a sense of warmth, jubilation, and hope for a cure. The opening reception was decked out with an array of hors d’oeuvres and drinks. The event was emceed by Nick “Dr. Nick” Johnson of WPFW-FM 89.3, who graciously volunteered his service. He shared his connection to breast cancer, having lost his first spouse to the devastating disease. The audience was welcomed by Founder Thelma D. Jones, who shared her breast cancer story and thanked everyone for walking the journey with her while highlighting the organization’s mission, vision, and programs. She encouraged continued support of the organization. Guest Speaker Bridget Oppong, MD, a breast surgeon at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, donated her time and generous financial support to deliver a thought-provoking presentation. Dr. Oppong shared an informative and inspiring talk about the overall progress of cancer in America and the DC area. A recent report from the American Cancer Society shows that the national death rate has decreased by 25%. However, Dr. Oppong noted that it failed to reflect an accurate picture of the grim statistics surrounding breast cancer, particularly in African-Americans and women of color who are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women.

Jones recognized both breast cancer and other cancer survivors, presenting a surprised Cleo Davis, 92, the oldest breast cancer survivor present, with a lovely large pink and purple breast cancer wreath compliments of JVL Creations. Giving her a big hug, Jones then invited Davis to become an honorary member of the Thelma D. Jones (TDJ) Breast Cancer Support Group. Created in April 2010, the nationally recognized support group by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is the signature program of the TDJ Breast Cancer Fund, which has since its inception welcomed more than 800 participants and guest speakers like Dr. Oppong, every third Wednesday night in SW at the ANC6D-SWNA Conference Room.

Stepping up the pace of the program, Iva Jean Ambush, jazz vocalist and breast cancer survivor added a warmth of memories with three songs, one of which was “Summer Time” which was quite appropriate considering the prevailing cold temperature at the time. Enjoying a different beat, featured performer Shirleta Settles roused the audience with her show-stopping performance and stage antics. True to her slogan: “Shirleta is not just a voice; she’s an entertainer” who fully engages her audience, props and all, on a moment’s notice. She invited audience participation and properly attired three back-up singers (Bonita Pennino of ACS CAN, Audrey Hinton of the SWNA Education & Scholarship Task Force, and Seneeya Jenkins Yates of Jeysan Jewelry Designs) in a rendition of the Shirelles “Will you Still Love Me Tomorrow.” Shirleta also invited Jordan Davis, eldest son of survivor Cleo Davis, to participate as a prop in the Jazz standard “All of Me” to help him understand the full package he was getting in a marriage, i.e., bills and all.

The audience loved the performance and was still on a natural high when they won several door prizes consisting of beautifully hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind jewelry compliments of Jeysan Jewelry. Jenkins Yates, Jeysan’s founder, surprised and presented Jones with a lovely handmade necklace with a precious pink stone in recognition of her overall civic efforts and in the fight against cancer, particularly breast cancer. Yates has consistently donated door prizes, including during the 2016 Benefit Concert and at support group meetings. Jones acknowledged the gift as well as the TDJ Breast Cancer Fund board of directors; special guests, including the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN; and the many volunteers, especially Yoan Anguilet, Vyllorya Evans, Stephanie Holloman, Drs. Ikemba & Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Sylvia Jackson, Jamal Jones, Anthia Peters, Tracey Webb, Black Benefactors, Washington Cable, Westminster Church. and The Southwester, among others.

The TDJ Breast Cancer Fund is an all-volunteer organization whose fiscal agent is the Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Its mission is to advocate and improve the overall health and wellness for women and men through outreach, education, and prevention. The TDJ Breast Cancer Fund promotes early detection strategies for breast health and access to the best biomedical and evidence-based complementary therapies to reduce the incidences and mortality rates of breast cancer.

Our vision is to save lives, and embrace and achieve a world community free of breast cancer. We plan to realize this vision with guiding principles of respect, collaboration, quality and patient-centered care, culturally sensitive approaches, and evidence-based strategies.

Proceeds from the concert will benefit the TDJ Breast Cancer Fund for education, prevention, screening, and early detection. For more information on the TDJ Breast Cancer Fund, please contact info@tdjbreastcancerfund.org. To make a tax-deductible donation, please send check or money order payable to the Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation or SRDC, 400 I St. SW, Washington, DC 20024 and note in the memo line Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund.

Join the TDJ Breast Cancer Fund Support Group’s seventh anniversary celebration on Wednesday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, 555 Water St. SW, Washington, DC 20024. Guest speaker Willie Jolley will speak on “Keep the Faith: Your Best is Yet to Come.” Also Shonta Chambers, executive vice president of health equity initiatives and community engagement for the Patient Advocate Foundation, will share a brief overview of their programs and vocalist and breast cancer survivor Iva Jean Ambush will perform.

(Thelma D. Jones contributed to this article.)

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