Every June, more than 120 women and men don spring-time attire and festive hats to fill the Inn at Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay. Sitting down at beautifully-decorated tables, they sip on tea and enjoy lively conversation (and a lot of laughter).
Their purpose, however, is more serious than it may appear. By gathering for this annual event, one local organization is able to support those dealing with some of the most challenging times in their lives.
La-Tea-Da High Tea is the biggest fundraising event of the year for nonprofit and Cherryland Cares grant recipient Leelanau County Cancer Foundation (LCCF). This decade-old event, along with other fundraising efforts, allows LCCF to provide financial assistance to Leelanau County residents dealing with cancer.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to be in a room with all these people that have one goal in mind,” said Terry Gremel, LCCF board member. “We’re there to have fun, but also because we’re focused on philanthropy and helping other people.”
Gremel has always had a passion for helping people who have cancer. Before joining the LCCF board five years ago, she was a clinical nurse specialist in the oncology program at Munson Medical Center for 17 years. Today, in addition to LCCF, she hosts cancer support groups in her hometown of Northport.
“One of the things that drew me to oncology as a nurse was that there is something about being diagnosed with a disease like cancer that makes people look at their lives differently,” she explained. “They set priorities differently. They live their life. And they focus on living.”
It only makes sense that Gremel would devote her time and energy to LCCF and La-Tea-Da High Tea. “It’s a wonderful event. Our only problem is that we don’t have enough seats available,” said Gremel.
Every year, LCCF puts together a unique experience for their high tea guests. They enlist “table designers” to uniquely decorate each table with their own china and tableware. The event includes a speaker, door prizes, raffle, and, of course, tea and other food and drink.
The money raised from La-Tea-Da High Tea go towards meeting a wide variety of financial needs of those fighting cancer in Leelanau County. Sometimes LCCF is providing food and gas cards. Other times they’re fulfilling mortgage, rent and car payments. It can be as simple as providing lawn care.
“Cancer is such a difficult disease both physically and emotionally. One of the emotional impacts is the burden and the worry about financial issues. We try to decrease their anxiety about that particular aspect of their situation.”
Since 2016, LCCF has been able to help 76 Leelanau County residents with over $107,000 in assistance. It’s because of the generosity of people like their La-Tea-Da High Tea guests that make it all possible.
“A few people have told us that just knowing that somebody is out there and cares about them, even without the money, is really meaningful to them,” said Gremel. “To be able to provide some comfort is very important to all of us.”
To learn more about LCCF, contact Terry Gremel at 231-645-2120.