PALS Makes a Pal out of Local Singer

Above: From the left are PALs volunteers Judy Dean and Adam McInnis, North Shore Bank’s Mariellen Hayward, and
​PALS volunteers ​Carol Fournier and Lorrie Kmiec /©tfiphoto/barry kaplan
By Shelley A. Sackett

salem@salemwickedlocal.com

Salem resident Julie Dougherty has been singing since the mid-sixties, performing all over the country and playing many styles of music, including folk, Irish, country-rock and jazz and blues combinations. She also has a soft spot for cats, starting with her own two older indoor cats, and extending to any cat in need. Over the years, she has taken in many a stray cat that has wandered to her back door.

Recently, she was looking out her window and noticed an unfamiliar straggly cat in her yard. “It was so skinny and timid, I thought it was a young cat,” she said. “I left out food, but noticed he wasn’t touching it.”

She knew the cat needed medical attention, but the first two places she called were no help. Then she remembered she had heard that the PetSmart store at 10 Traders Way had a stray cat program. “When I went in, they were so helpful. They sent a PALS Animal Life Saver volunteer out the very next day,” Dougherty recalled.

PALS is the only all-volunteer organization on the North Shore that rescues and rehomes local homeless, abandoned and surrendered cats and kittens. Since 2007, it has been a PetSmart Charities adoption partner, with ten adoption cages in the Salem PetSmart location.

The rescue took quite a while. The cat was an elderly cat that had been abandoned quite a while ago “because we see a fair number of cats running through the neighborhood and I had never seen him before,” said Dougherty. The volunteer worked for two to three hours to get him out from under the shed where it seemed he had gone to die. “He no teeth and I don’t know if he was mistreated, but he certainly was abandoned,” Doughtery added sadly.

The PALS volunteer, who prefers to remain anonymous, rushed the cat to the Northeast Hospital in Peabody Venter, PALS’ volunteer vet, but the cat did die. “At least his final moments were in a very nice, loving environment,” Dougherty said.

Julie Dougherty

Julie Dougherty

She was so moved by the PALS volunteer’s dedication, that Dougherty went to the PALS office and made a donation the very next day. “I also told the staff that if they ever did a fundraiser and they wanted to put some musicians together, they should give me a call,” she said.

Carol Fournier, long-time PALS volunteer and its funding coordinator, did just that and on November 4, the PALS Animal Life Savers fundraiser, “Banding Together,” will be held at Finz Seafood & Grill on Pickering Wharf from 7 to 9 p.m. Julie Dougherty will headline a concert by her friends and local favorite musicians, Woody Woodward, the Errin Brown Band, the Guy Ford Band and Dave Balin & The Bailouts. Finz will offer a limited menu and there will be a cash bar, raffle items and… dancing!

“There are only 80 seats available, so people should pre-order on line,” Fournier said, noting that they wanted to make sure there would be enough room on the dance floor for everyone. Tickets are $25 and availailble at palscats.org or by calling Fournier at 978-745-7705. If there are still tickets left, walk-in may purchase them at the door.

“This is a bonus,” said KrisTina Wheeler, who started as an FCS (feed, clean and socialize) volunteer in 2006 and is now the PALS President, Managing Director and Treasurer. “The challenge with fundraisers is that we have such a small staff that we don’t have a marketing or advertising budget, so putting these events on really takes the time of a select few people,” she said. Other than the space and cat food donated by PetSmart Charities, PALS relies on donations and adoption fees to fund its work.

According to Wheeler, PALS rescues about 280 cats a year. Of those, between 200 and 230 are adopted. Some of the rest are strays that are returned to their rightful owners and some, like the cat who wandered into Dougherty’s yard, don’t make it.

PALS started in 1995 in Peabody by the animal control officer and a local firefighter. Originally, PALS operated out of Borash Animal Clinic in Peabody and assisted both cats and dogs.

In 2003, PALS was accepted as an adoption partner at PetSmart’s then-new store in Salem. By the next year, PALS left its Peabody location and focused solely on cats in PetSmart’s Traders Way store.

“It’s a great location and good exposure for our cats,” said Fournier, who started volunteering at PALS in 2003 after retiring from the corporate world. “I always loved animals – I had them my whole life – so I was drawn to PALS,” she said.

Once a cat is rescued, it goes to the veterinarian (“91% of all of our expenses is vet care,” said Wheeler). A network of foster homes cares for cats waiting for one of the ten cages to become available in the PALS Adoption Center located in the Salem PetSmart.

Approximately 40 active volunteers work each day to clean cages, do the laundry, feed the cats and socialize with the animals. They also do community outreach, with tables at the Salem Farmers’ Market and a couple of the blessing of the Animals local events. They participate as an exhibitor, trying to build more community awareness of their program.

Volunteers include college students, professionals, mothers, retirees and local animal lovers.

“I’ve been volunteering because I grew up with cats my entire life. I really wish this was all I needed to do, that I could be a full-time volunteer, because it is extremely rewarding,” said Wheeler, noting every one of their cats ends up being adopted. [Wheeler is also Assistant to the General Manager at the Hawthorne Hotel].

PALS has grown from $45,000 in expenses in 2011 to $75,000 in expenses in 2014, with $62,000 of that going to veterinary care. Half of PALS’s income comes from adoption fees and one-fourth is from private donations. The rest comes from fundraising and grants. Wheeler said the organization is looking to set a record in 2015, with over 235 adoptions and close to 300 cats helped.

With part-time volunteers who all have other jobs and responsibilities, Wheeler said that PALS’s biggest challenge is having the manpower to do what needs to get done. “Somehow, we get through it and end up saving 280 cats a year, which is pretty good for 40 people,” she said.

For more information, visit palscats.org.

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Salem gets Saturday Night Halloween Fever

Above: A ghoul beckons at the Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Party in 2014. COURTESY PHOTO / Patrick Cornelisson

By Shelley A. Sackett

Salem gets Saturday Night Halloween Fever

By Shelley A. Sackett

Halloween in Salem, the month-long party of haunted happenings, séances, ghouls, ghost stories, witches, pirates, vampires, and the macabre, is ending Saturday with a literal bang: at 10:15 p.m., Halloween Finale Fireworks will light up the sky over the North River.

The best place to watch them? “Bridge Street at Washington Street by the train station,” said Kate Fox, Executive Director of Destination Salem, the city’s Office of Tourism & Cultural Affairs, noting that in addition to affording the best view, that location also encourages the easy exit the city is insisting revelers make at 10:30 p.m..

“We shift gears from a communications standpoint from promoting all the events and programming to wanting people to understand that, while we want people to enjoy themselves and have a good time, we also want them to be prepared to leave at the end of the night,” Fox continued. Police will clear the streets at 10:30 p.m. and the MBTA has scheduled extra trains to accommodate the expected record crowds.

hawthornehalloween14-154

Hawthorne Hotel 2014 Halloween Party reveler.

With the good weather, Fox anticipates between 70,000 and 75,000 people coming into Salem for Saturday’s street party. “If you’re in a bar, a restaurant or a party, you can stay until that ends. But if you’re here to enjoy the streets, the DJs, the walking around and seeing and being seen that we all enjoy on Halloween night, that ends at 10:30 sharp,” she again stressed.

Until that magic witching hour, however, there is plenty this weekend to entertain and titillate all ages of revelers.

On Friday, October 30, the First Annual Salem’s Wicked Hot Spice Eating Challenge will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. on Artists’ Row. Tastings will be four types of chili peppers made into a mash with Salem Firefighters Local 172 on hand to douse any serious resulting flames.

Not looking to challenge your palate? “Myths & Misconception,” a walking tour sponsored by the Essex National Heritage Area, seeks to uncover the myths and debunk any misconceptions about the Salem Witch Trials that happened over 300 years ago and that have been dramatized in books, movies, documentaries, and even TV shows. This walking tour meets at the Salem Regional Visitors’ Center and lasts 45 minutes. It includes stops at the Old Burying Point Cemetery, Witch Trials Memorial, and the site of the original 17th century jail.

Festival of the Dead Salem Witches' Magic Circle

Festival of the Dead Salem Witches’ Magic Circle

Not lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the sold-out Hawthorne Hotel’s 25th Annual Halloween Party? Not to worry – there are plenty of other opportunities to party the night away. The “Victorian Halloween Magi Ball” will take place at Victoria Station at 86 Wharf St. from 7:30 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. Dress in costumes and as characters from books written in the Victorian era by such as authors as Edgar Allen Poe, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and of, the creator of “Frankenstein”, Mary Bysshe Shelley. The event benefits the North Shore Elder Service “Over the Rainbow Coalition.”

Another 2015 first, the Heaven & Hell Party, will take place at Sea Level at 94 Wharf St. from 9 to 11p.m. and will feature “Heaven” on the top floor with Ketel One Vodka and “Hell” on the bottom Floor with Captain Morgan Cannon Blast.

Want to celebrate Halloween but take a break from the Salem crowds? Lynn Memorial Auditorium presents a special sowing of the classic 1975 film, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on its 40th anniversary. Pre-show fun starts at 9 p.m. and the show starts at 10 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to wear costumes, bring props, learn their lines and be on the lookout for a motorcycle on the loose.

On Saturday, October 31, Halloween day is chockfull of events from 10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. “Salem Children’s Day!” is celebrated on Salem Common from 10 a.m. until 3p.m. with a full day of blow-ups, games, face paintings and more. At 5 p.m., the Festival of the Dead will sponsor a “Salem Witches’ Magic Circle” with Warlocks and Witches and the Dragon Ritual Drummers who will gather for the sacred and magical ritual of Halloween. The Salem Common event is free and open to all who wish to attend with an open heart and a love for their dead.

Evening events include: the Festival of the Dead’s “The Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball” at the Hawthorne Hotel; Gulu-Gulu Café’s Annual Halloween Party featuring Ponyfish with Jeff Savlon; the Annie Brobst Band “Halloween in Salem” party at the Knights of Columbus at Washington Square, and Mamadou Diop Band live at the Fountain Stage at Museum Place Mall on Essex Street.

“It’s been a great month. The weather has been phenomenal and that can really make or break the weekend. With the good weather, more people come in and are able to enjoy more things in Salem without being freezing,” said Fox, whose office is already busy planning Haunted Happenings 2016.

For more information and a full listing of events, visit hauntedhappenings.org.

Zalem Zombies on the Prowl in Salem

Above: Frank Vieira, center, and  some of his students reading ‘Zalem, Mass.’ Books, or holding up posters from the series. From left, front row:  Helina Almonte, Frank Vieira (me), Richard Morrison; middle row: Mark Savio, Cortney Cook, Julia Chen, Precious Ifeacho; and back row: Olivia Bowers, Angelina Auth./COURTESY PHOTOS

By Shelley A. Sackett

salem@wickedlocal.com

Frank Vieira is not your typical history teacher. By day, the 47-year-old lifelong Salem resident engages Lynn’s Thurgood Marshall Middle School eighth graders with lessons about World History, covering the time period from Ancient Greece until the Enlightenment.

But once he leaves his classroom for the day, the mild-mannered father of five shifts gears and dons his other persona: Frank Vieira, creator and marketer of “Zalem, Mass.”, a comic book series about surviving a Zombie Apocalypse.

“‘Zalem, Mass.’ is not your typical zombie story. It is rich with emotion and quite often brings its readers to tears,” Vieira said, noting he deliberately included actual Salem locations, such as Forest River Pool, Market Basket, Winter Island and Steve’s Quality Market in the action-packed series. “Readers will be hard pressed to not be thinking about seeing zombies no matter where in the city they might go. Using actual geography truly helps to bring the story to life and give it a real feel.”

The cover of 'Zalem, Mass.' was designed by Salem artist Christina Robichau and author Frank Vieira.

The cover of ‘Zalem, Mass.’ was designed by Salem artist Christina Robichau and author Frank Vieira.

The zombie craze that is sweeping the globe, and especially the television series, “The Walking Dead,” is the backbone of Vieira’s inspiration to write his comic book series. “This global fascination was no different in my household, where my five kids and I frequently found ourselves having numerous discussions about what we would do if a Zombie Apocalypse ever actually happened,” he said. As the stories and ideas the family tossed around grew in richness and detail, so did Vieira’s motivation to write them down, and “just like that, ‘Zalem, Mass.’ was born.”

Since the story is based on the Vieira family’s brainstorming sessions, the series uses actual people, centering on the Vieira family.

In a nutshell, “Zalem, Mass.” tells the story of a how a normal and unsuspecting family deals with the onset of a Zombie Apocalypse as it approaches their home in Salem. The father takes immediate action to keep his family safe and together, eventually building a sanctuary at Winter Island, which they call “Constantinople.” “Being a history teacher, I based this Safe Zone on the Byzantine capital, now called Istanbul and located in modern day Turkey,” Vieira said.

Originally, he wanted to take his story “on the road” and have the characters travel the countryside for one reason or another, “but Salem is the Witch City. Not only does it have so much spooky history, but it also has become the Halloween Mecca for millions of people,” he said.

Once Vieira decided to set the series in Salem, he came up with the idea of covering the “S” on an “Entering Salem” road sign with a bloody “Z”. He brought the concept to his close friend and local artist, Christina Robichau, and together they designed the final book cover with a bunch of zombie arms reaching for the bloody city.

In May 2013, Vieira started the Zalem, Mass. fan-page on Facebook and invited a few people to the site. After he added the cover image, he received requests for posters and t-shirts. “I literally made everything from coffee mugs to beach bags, to phone covers… Whatever people wanted, I made and sold via the fan-page,” he said.

Friends of friends invited friends of their friends. As soon as Vieira finished writing a chapter, he posted teasers, works-in-progress for some of the artwork, and, eventually, the finished artwork. “With each new image, people wanted new posters and t-shirts, etc.,” he said.

“I also had five or six test readers who I allowed to read my first drafts in order to get feedback. When they began posting how awesome they thought the story was, more and more people continued to look forward to the book’s eventual release date,” he added.

Last year, Vieira ran his first Kickstarter campaign for 30 days, with the goal of raising $5,000. He raised over $6,000, with many fans literally buying their way into the storyline. Larry Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Comics in Salem and a strong supporter of the “Zalem, Mass.” series, pledged $500 to become a character in Vieira’s Book 1:Constantinople and Book 2:Loss, and to have a major scene take place in his store in Book 3. A second Kickstarter this summer raised another $3,000.

Armed with funding, a title and a cover, Vieira began writing Book 1 in earnest. He plumbed Facebook to meet Marvel and DC artists, Thor Mangila and Michael Magallanes, two Philippines residents who created much of the book’s artwork. “I have been reading comic books for the last 40 years and have met many creators by writing letters or chatting on Facebook. Some I met in person at comic conventions, and one [Ed Beard] I met at the King Richard’s Faire,” Vieira said.

With $10,000 from Books 1 and 2 pre-orders, Vieira was able to pay for the artwork, copyright and publishing expenses. After several frustrating experiences with potential publishers, he decided to self-publish with Amazon.com. Currently, “Zalem, Mass.” has more than 13,000 hits on its website (zalemmass.com) and more than 2,100 worldwide fans on its fan-page (facebook.com/zalemmass).

Student Yen-Nhi Chit and author Frank Vieira show a poster of her Book 2 artwork, making her a published artist.

Student Yen-Nhi Chit and author Frank Vieira show a poster of her Book 2 artwork, making her a published artist.

As a teacher, Vieira uses his books to encourage his students to follow their dreams and do whatever makes them happy. He shares the writing process and what publishing a book entails with his students and their families. His classroom is filled with original drawings and paintings by many of his comic artist friends. He was even able to get one of his students, Yen-Nhi Chit, who he discovered was “an amazing artist”, published in “Book 2: Loss” by pairing her with one of the Marvel/DC colorists. “Now she is not only a published artist, but she has also made her first serious contact in the art field. Not too bad for a 14-year-old young lady,” Vieira shared with tremendous pride.

“My central idea is to serve as a role model for my students and their families by being an example and showing them that anything is possible if they dream big, and then chase after their dreams and make them a reality,” Vieira said.

Vieira will be available at Harrison’s Comics at 252 Essex St., Salem, on Saturday October 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. for a book signing to celebrate publication of “Zalem, Mass. Book 2: Loss.” For more information, visit facebook.com/zalemmass and zalem

A Hallowed Time for Witches, Warlocks

Above:Warlocks Brian Cain, left, and Christian Day practice the religion of witchcraft. Here they celebrate their wedding at Hammond Castle. COURTESY PHOTO

By Shelley A. Sackett / salem@wickedlocal.com

SALEM

For practicing Warlocks Christian Day and Brian Cain, Salem’s nickname, “Witch City,” is more than a marketing slogan and Halloween is more than a retail second Christmas.

“Witchcraft is one of the oldest spiritual paths that occurs in cultures throughout the world,” explained Day from the home he shares with Cain in New Orleans. “It’s a time when spirits walk among us. It’s a time when we remember those who have gone before who touched our lives in some way.”

Both Day and Cain stress that witchcraft is a religious faith, a belief system that includes magic, clairvoyance, and male and female deities. “We all see God in different images,” said Cain, who read the book “Raymond Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft” as a 15-year-old interested in the occult. The book was an eye-opener for the teen, who already accepted witchcraft as a source of magic. “It was a new way of looking at God and brought witchcraft into my life as a religion,” he said.

Born in Beverly to a “very Catholic, Democrat, Massachusetts family,” Day moved to Salem at age 4 and became a practicing witch at 18 after discovering Tarot cards the year before. Although his mother was “a little freaked out” at her son’s embracing witchcraft, his family understood that he was not doing anything harmful. Nonetheless, “people in our family will needle anybody about anything,” Day said with a chuckle.

After a traditional career in advertising at the prestigious Arnold firm, Day decided to leave that world in his 30s and practice witchcraft full-time in Salem.

Day became aware of a movement in the city that was trying to rid Salem of its witch identity. In 2003, Destination Salem, the city’s official Office of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, wouldn’t allow Day to join. “They said we didn’t fit their mission statement which, at the time, was devoted solely to ‘arts and culture,'” Day explained. This potential disenfranchisement was the impetus for his founding Festival of the Dead in 2003.

[When Kim Driscoll became Mayor in 2005, Day did join Destination Salem, ending up on the Board of Directors in 2010, a post he left after relocating to New Orleans.]

“Festival of the Dead was created to bring back the concept that Halloween is a sacred time of the year. We don’t want to get rid of the fun of Halloween. But we also want to show it has a spiritual side and that Salem has room for witches and their magic. There’s a place at the table for the magical community of Salem,” Day said.

During the month of October, the Festival hosts the Annual Psychic Fair and Witchcraft Expo at Museum Place Mall at 176 Essex St., Salem. Besides presenting an emporium of “magical gifts”, those interested can have a Tarot card reading, a crystal ball scrying or a private visit with a medium. Nearby, Enchanted Alley “magical marketplace” is chockfull of vendors selling crystals, jewelry, spell kits, voodoo dolls and more.

There are also more serious ticketed events such as “Hekate: Unveiling the Queen of the Dead,” “Speaking to the Dead with Laurie Cabot,” “The Horned God: Lord of Death and Resurrection with Brian Cain” and of course, the “Official Salem Witches’ Halloween Ball” on Oct. 31, featuring the Dragon Ritual Drummers and old-fashioned rituals and magic.

Day and Cain, who met on Facebook over a witchcraft discussion and then connected in New Orleans in person and “really hit it off,” were married at Hammond Castle in Gloucester on Nov. 16, 2014, a night sacred to the Witch Goddess Hekate. The castle was also the location of a music video for the song “Voodoo” by the band Godsmack; the video featured Salem’s Official Witch Laurie Cabot.

The couple owns two witchcraft shops in Salem, Hex and Omen. Day believes stores like theirs help people to understand what witchcraft is and to reconnect to their spirituality. He compares customers who buy a lucky charm or light a wish candle to lapsed Catholics who might visit Vatican City and look up at the Sistine Chapel and feel closer to God.
“They don’t necessarily want to become a priest or a nun, but they want to feel that connection. This is what goes on in Salem,” he said.

“People coming to Salem and going into a witch shop — most of them aren’t witches and they don’t want to be witches. What they want is to believe in magic again,” Day added.
Both Day and Cain turn serious when asked what their favorite Festival of the Dead event is and answer almost in unison: The Dumb Supper: Dinner with the Dead (so named because no one may speak throughout the event). “This is really the most spiritual event we have,” Cain explained. “It’s a time when we connect to our loved ones who have passed on and it’s a very specific experience.”

Day said his favorite thing about the Dumb Supper is that every year they get “the husbands,” those men dragged to the event by their wives. Although they weren’t interested in attending, after the evening they invariably approach Day and Cain with stories about seeing or touching their loved ones and ask the same question: “How is that possible?”

“These are the things that really inspire me. If someone goes in expecting nothing and then they get something, it so reinforces the idea of the spiritual world. It’s the most sacred thing a witch can do,” Day said. “Salem is the place to go if you want to believe in magic again.”

For more information, visit festivalofthedead.com.

Funding Cancer Research: ACS Fights the Good Fight

Above: Aaron Goldman, Ph.D., American Cancer Society pay-if grantee.

By Shelley A. Sackett

This year, 1.6 million Americans will receive a new cancer diagnosis. Yet, federal funding for cancer research is at its lowest ebb in decades, according to American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

“It’s scary what we’re doing nationally with funding,” said Tom Flanagan, Interim Senior Director of the New England Division of the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Tom Flanagan

Tom Flanagan

In 2014, cancer caused 585,720 deaths in the United States, or one fourth of all reported deaths. According to the ACS, the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by almost forty percent by 2030. Yet, federal funding of medical research has remained flat for more than a decade when adjusted for inflation.

The U.S.’s National Institute of Health (NIH) is the largest source of funding for medical research in the world. Since 2003, however, its inflation-adjusted appropriation is down 23 percent, according to the ASCO. The NIH budget peaked in fiscal year 2010 at $30.9 billion, falling to $30.3 billion for fiscal year 2015.

Diminished resources have had immediate effects. For example, patient enrollment in NIH’s clinical trials network decreased from 29,000 patients in 2009 to 20,000 in 2013. Clinical trials are a critical step in bringing potential new therapies to the marketplace.

Next to the federal government, the ACS is the largest private funder of cancer research, subsidizing 809 research grants in the U.S. worth $438 million in 2015. Of that national total, $47.5 million, or over ten percent, is earmarked to fund 96 Massachusetts grants.

In addition, the ACS’s multi-disciplinary review panel sometimes approves applications that are beyond that year’s funding resources. Called “pay-if” grants, individual donors who wish to support research that would not otherwise be funded subsidize the work. In 2014, these individual donors stepped up to contribute more than $8.8 million in funding, financing 46 additional “pay-if” grants.

One pay-if grantee is Aaron Goldman, Ph.D., an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School who was a fellow with ACS for three years, until this past July. He received a $150,000 research grant to study the biological mechanism that makes some breast cancer cells resistant to cancer therapy. His goal was to develop a drug that would attack this mechanism.

“The focus of our work is not just to keep testing and playing with pathways and molecules, but to really make something come to fruition. There is a huge unmet need, particularly when it comes to cancer cells’ resistance to chemotherapy,” he said. In fact, he and his team have developed drugs that they know are working. “We got a lot of great research accomplished in just three years,” he said proudly.

Goldman and his team are currently seeking private funding to expand these drugs into a full-fledged company so they can study and license them. With the right funding, these new therapies could be market-ready within a year-and-a-half, Goldman estimates, improving a cancer patient’s overall therapeutic outcome and preventing relapse.

Over the course of his 15-year involvement in cancer research, which started as an undergraduate and then graduate student at the University of Arizona, he has had a lot of experience with foundation and government grants. ACS is unique among funders.

“ACS brings you in as family. You’re interacting with the actual funders and the patient population. All the work I’m doing gets communicated throughout the community of administrators and the grant committee,” he said. By contrast, NIH is more anonymous and diffuse. “You feel a little more detached from the population that you’re trying to help – the people suffering from cancer.”

Goldman’s main takeaway from his experience with medical research and securing funding is that foundation grants are crucial in the current fiscal environment that has created even fiercer competition for federal grants, making it very difficult for a young investigator to even qualify for one.

“It’s the old paradigm of applying for a job without the experience but you need the job to get the experience. These foundation grants, like ACS, have been fantastic in filling those gaps,” he said.

ACS is trying to get Congress to refill NIH cancer research funding gaps by increasing appropriations. In 2001, it created ACS Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) to amplify the organization’s work in the public policy arena. As the nation’s leading nonprofit, nonpartisan cancer advocacy organization, ACS CAN promotes its agenda of fighting cancer at the state and federal levels. ACS provides 92 percent of ACS CAN’s 2015’s budget of $35.9 million. The other 8 percent is donated by individuals, health systems and companies.

“We hold candidates as well as lawmakers accountable for their stance on public policies that we know will make a positive impact on fighting cancer,” said Shalini Vallabhan, ACS CAN Vice President of Government Relation in New England. With one million volunteers nationwide, trained volunteers in every congressional district and a lobbyist and grass roots manager in every state, the group is a political force to be reckoned with.

“We all know the level of partisanship that is taking place in Washington, D.C. Increasing funding for medical research is an area we see strong bipartisan support for,” Vallabhan said, pointing out that on July 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Bill 6, “The 21st Century Cures Act” (congress.gov/bill/114-congress/house-bill/6) which provides for dedicated funding for NIH for the next five years at $1.75 million per year, or $8.75 million total.

The bill must next pass in the Senate before President Obama can sign it into law. Later this month, over 700 volunteers and ACS CAN staff will travel to Washington, D.C. to lobby lawmakers from all 435 congressional districts.

ACS would not receive any of this increased funding. “This is for the public good. We have to get the story out because it’s such an exciting time in life sciences and cancer treatment and if we continue to decrease funding from the federal government, it will have a ripple effect for decades in terms of research and science in these areas,” Vallabhan said.

Since its first cancer prevention study in the 1950’s linked smoking and lung cancer, ACS has funded long-term prospective studies on large groups of people to help researchers identify cancer risk factors. Currently, 300,000 people across the country are involved in a study that looks at lifestyle, medical history and changes in medical history, trying to uncover the next big link that can help in the fight to prevent cancer.

“We know that cancer will cost our economy over $200 billion in medical costs and lost productivity this year. We also know that 50 percent of cancer is preventable either through preventing tobacco use or ensuring good nutrition and proper physical activity, “Vallabhan said, pausing. “It’s common sense that it’s better both from a cost perspective and certainly in terms of impact on families and communities if we’re preventing the disease,” she added.

ACS CAN Outreach

June 2015 ACS CAN Research Breakfast, standing from left to right are: Shalini Vallabhan (Vice President of Government Relations, ACS CAN), Mike Ruggiero (Vice President of Government Relations, EMD Serono), Governor Baker, Paris Panayiotopoulos (President and Managing Director, EMD Serono), and Paul Guzzi (then - President, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce).

June 2015 ACS CAN Research Breakfast, standing from left to right are: Shalini Vallabhan (Vice President of Government Relations, ACS CAN), Mike Ruggiero (Vice President of Government Relations, EMD Serono), Governor Baker, Paris Panayiotopoulos (President and Managing Director, EMD Serono), and Paul Guzzi (then – President, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce).

Each year, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network brings together leaders from the life sciences ecosystem, health care systems, non-profit sector and businesses. The annual Research Breakfast highlights new breakthroughs in federal funding for cancer research and calls on policymakers to commit to increases in federal funding for the National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute.

In June 2015, the 8th annual event featured Governor Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and Paul Guzzi from the Boston Chamber of Commerce as guest speakers. More than 80 percent of federal funding for the NIH and NCI (National Cancer Institute) is spent on biomedical research projects at research facilities across the country. In FY 2015, researchers in Massachusetts received $2 billion in NIH funding, which supported more than 32,800 jobs across the state.

ACS CAN also launched the OneDegree project this year in partnership with Stand Up to Cancer to push for increased funding at the federal level. ASC CAN asks everyone to sign the petition at www.onedegreeproject.org. A two-minute video about the OneDegree campaign is at: facebook.com/video.php?v=10152839454796378&set=vb.6355071377&type=2&theater.

For more information or to donate to the American Cancer Society, visit http://www.cancer.org; for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, visit www.acscan.org, and for the One Degree project, visit http://action.acscan.org/site/PageNavigator/OneDegree_Microsite_Petition_Page.html.

Bakers Island Lighthouse Has 1,017 Visitors During its First Season

Above: Former lighthouse keepers Lorraine and Randall Anderson with 2015 keepers Mary Hillery and Greg Guckenburg. /COURTESY PHOTOS

By Shelley A. Sackett / salem@wickedlocal.com
On Labor Day, the Naumkeag departed from the Salem Ferry dock at 10 Blaney St. and travelled the five miles to Bakers Island for the last time of the 2015 season. It carried the island’s 1,017th visitor this summer.

Passengers board The Naumkeag at Bakers Island.

Passengers board The Naumkeag at Bakers Island.

It was just about a year ago when 40 people took the same trip, their landing at Bakers Island’s rocky coast symbolic of the rocky start of the relationship between the fiercely private summer island residents and the Essex National Heritage Commission.

The 2014 visitors included a uniformed Coast Guard rear admiral, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Annie Harris, chief executive of Essex Heritage. They were aboard to celebrate the official handover of the Bakers Island Light Station from the Coast Guard to Essex Heritage, a nonprofit management organization for the hundreds of historic, cultural and natural places in Essex County.

Bakers Island is a 60-acre island in Salem Sound with a fiercely private summer colony of about 55 cottages. Its 100 or so residents tried for years to win control of the masonry lighthouse — and the 10-acre property where it sits alongside two keeper’s houses — from the federal government, which has owned and operated it since 1798.

The residents lost their battle and on Aug. 27, 2014, the deed was transferred to Essex Heritage. The organization got right to work raising money to fund restoration of the lighthouse, keeper’s houses, and the lantern and oil buildings.

“We obtained a substantial $10,000 grant from the Daughters of the American Revolution which gave us the initial ‘boost’ to take on the renovation of the lighthouse tower,” said Harris. Essex Heritage also started a Kickstarter campaign, which, owing to the generosity of the many “Bakers Backers,” exceeded its $30,000 fundraising goal and gave the project great visibility.

“Thanks to mason Marty Nally and his crew, the lighthouse project was completed on time and on budget,” said Harris.

Restoration of the lighthouse was extensive and labor intensive. Essex Heritage also made substantial progress on the renovations of the assistant keeper’s house and restored some of the original pathways on the west side of the property, cutting through bittersweet and sumac to open up some good water views.

Visitors check out the lighthouse on Bakers Island.

Visitors check out the lighthouse on Bakers Island.

The renovated lighthouse had a constant flow of visitors this summer, at $35 a ticket. Annie Harris was pleased. “The summer went extremely well,” she said. “Our volunteer couple Greg Guckenburg and Mary Hillery – and their black lab Mitch – were super. Not only did they accomplish a lot of work on both the exterior grounds and interior renovation of the assistant keeper’s house, they also were very hospitable and welcoming to the visitors. Mary studied the history of the light station and was a very gracious and enthusiastic hostess. She greeted every boat tour.”

Peter Golden, president of the Bakers Island Wharf Company, which functions as the residents’ association, echoed Harris’ assessment of how the island’s first summer being open to the public went. “Overall we were very pleased at how smoothly the tours went this summer, and we look forward to continued cooperation with Essex Heritage,” he said.

There is a lot to do to “put the property to bed” for the winter and then gear up again in the spring. The plumbing needs to be drained, boats put away and equipment stored. Harris has identified an energetic volunteer couple for next summer and will work with them over the winter to create the work plan for next summer.

Essex Heritage plans to apply for another grant soon. There will not be another Kickstarter campaign just yet, even though the first one was so successful financially. “It was a great experience – not only because of the money we raised, but also because of the excellent publicity and lots of new friends who support the Bakers Light Station,” Harris said.

For now, she is delighted to have been instrumental in gaining access to an Essex County treasure for the 1,017 visitors. “I’ve seen the light,” she said with a twinkle in her voice. “Have you?”