For her entire life, Kathryn Menu has known that breast cancer rates are particularly high on Long Island — the East End, where she calls home, no exception to the rule.
The number of local nonprofits that work to ensure access to breast health care is a testament to that, including the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, which will host its free “Tickled Pink Virtual Variety Show” fundraiser, honoring community heroes and women of East End media — including Ms. Menu, co-publisher of the Express News Group — on Saturday, March 6.
But this landscape of women’s healthcare didn’t always exist. It was sparse, at best, when Ms. Menu was a child, she said. So when the now 41-year-old mother of two had her first mammogram this past year, she couldn’t have been more thankful for the support she received.
“The truth is, it did not go well,” Ms. Menu said of the exam. “I was immediately directed to the breast health center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and, fortunately, it ended up being okay. I have never been so relieved to have the resources available to me because of this nonprofit during a time when I really could have ended up needing it, like so many others.”
This year’s “Tickled Pink,” hosted by comedian Michele Balan, is one piece of what helps the Ellen Hermanson Foundation guide breast cancer patients and their families through the physical and emotional aspects of the disease, according to founder Julie Ratner, as well as stress the importance of early detection and provide access to mammography and treatment to medically underserved communities.
Proceeds from the variety show — which will feature performances by headlining stand-up comedian Marion Grodin, cabaret singer Valerie diLorenzo, comedian and poet Mimi Gonzalez, performing artist Susan Jeremy, singer and comedian Angela LaGreca, comedian Wendy Liebman, and Madeleine The Magician — will help fund programs that offer access to breast health care, in partnership with The Southampton Hospital Foundation, the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center, OLA of Eastern Long Island, The Retreat, and The Pink Shawl Project.
“There are huge communities of women here, women who are underserved, who are not part of the medical pipeline, and it’s common knowledge that early detection is the best protection against breast cancer,” Ms. Ratner said. “When people get into the system late, the outcomes are not always as good. It’s a human right: All women need to have access to quality breast health care. That is our mission, to provide that. We want to make sure women who are underserved and sometimes on the margins are now being pulled into the Center and have this opportunity.”
Outside of highlighting its services, the Ellen Hermanson Foundation is honoring two groups of women at “Tickled Pink.” The first is “Community Heroes,” including Sara Blue, volunteer leader with the Ellen Hermanson Foundation and Maureen’s Haven; artist activist April Gornik; Evelyn Ramunno, executive director of the Sag Harbor Community Pantry; advocate and educator Marguerite A. Smith of the Shinnecock Indian Nation; and Moira Squires, ICU nurse and founder of Warriors of the East End.
“We really wanted to blow it out this year and, with COVID as a factor, to really shine a light on some of the people who are really stepping up and have stepped up over the years,” explained Anne Tschida Gomberg, executive director of the Ellen Hermanson Foundation. “But now it’s really become apparent that they deserve this recognition.”
The same is true of the second group of honorees — “Women of East End Media” — comprised of Nicole Barylski, editor-in-chief of Hamptons.com; Carissa Katz and Helen S. Rattray, managing editor and publisher of The East Hampton Star, respectively; Bridget LeRoy, radio host on WLIW 88.3 FM; Jessica Mackin-Cipro, co-publisher and editor of James Lane Post; Victoria Schneps-Yunis, president and co-publisher of Dan’s Papers; Taylor K. Vecsey, editor-in-chief of Behind the Hedges in Dan’s Papers; and Ms. Menu.
“It’s actually overwhelming to be honored by a group as important as the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, let alone to be recognized with a group of women I hold in such high regard and esteem,” Ms. Menu said. “Many of the female journalists being recognized have been working on the East End for literaly decades, and I count them not only as friends, but as trusted colleagues. To even be considered for an honor in the same breath as Helen Rattray is a bit surreal. She is iconic and is a newspaper publisher I have looked up to since I was a little kid growing up in Springs.”
Looking at the list of honorees — especially up against the backdrop of COVID-19, which stretched the roles of mothers at home and in the workplace to their limits — Ms. Menu said she realized that women have held positions of power and authority in local journalism for some time.
And the fact that the Ellen Hermanson Foundation is a place for them all is a relief.
“I am so grateful to know they are a resource for me, for my mother, and eventually, for my daughter,” Ms. Menu said.
To register for the “Tickled Pink Virtual Variety Show,” hosted by the Ellen Hermanson Foundation on Saturday, March 6, at 6 p.m., visit givebutter.com/tickledpink2021. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.