Santa's Got a Brand New Bag

It was a pink-studded glamorous event last night at Portsmouth Harbor Events & Conference Center.

More than 300 guests turned out for York Hospital's Santa's Got a Brand New Bag fund-raiser to benefit the hospital's Living Well program for breast-cancer patients.

Click here to view Photos of the Event:

Santa's helper, also known as York High School art teacher Gary Phipps, showed up to greet guests and pose for photos in front of more than 200 donated pocketbooks, clutches, satchels and other accessories that were part of silent and live auctions during the evening.

There were glamorous Kate Spade bags, and seven signed designer handbags from Oprah Winfrey. Mary Ann Esposito of "Ciao Italia" donated a pink leather Italian bag. Esposito, from Durham, sat at the head table with York Hospital Chief Executive Officer and President Jud Knox.

"I'm a good friend of Leslie Ware," Esposito said. Ware was a co-chairwoman for the third annual fund-raising event. A core group of women, called the Pink Pals, comprised the event's executive committee — Ellen Baldwin, Cathy Barnhorst, Barbara Conda and Ware.

The night was made possible by many people and businesses that generously donated services, goods and money.

While many guests wore pink, the events center was totally transformed.

There were pink lanterns and balloons, pink poinsettias, pink Christmas trees with tiny pink lights and cupcakes with pink ribbon frosting.

Guests were offered pink champagne upon arrival, and the staff of the events center wore pink aprons and pink bow ties. In the lobby stood a pink pocketbook tree donated by York Flower Shop that was raffled off at the end of the night, along with an Oprah-signed black designer bag.

The silent auction raised $22,000 toward the evening's total, which included monetary donations and event tickets.

"We have made at least $100,000," York Hospital Director of Marketing Dawn Fernald said. "We are ecstatic at the results and blown away by the generosity of everyone."

Five of the seven Oprah handbags raised $7,300 during the celebrity live auction run by Maureen Boyd of Boyd Auctions. One of the other two handbags donated by Winfrey was a door prize and one is included in an online auction.

Because the event was sold out, there is also an online auction that closes Sunday.

One guest, Debbie Orloff of Rye, said she was a big supporter of York Hospital.

Randy Price, morning anchor for WCVB-TV, was master of ceremonies. He had his own experience with York Hospital as a patient with a broken leg.

"My injury was not life-threatening, though," he said. "Breast cancer can be."

Price introduced two local breast-cancer survivors, Ali Goodwin and Sheilah McGovern.

Goodwin, 38, told the story of her journey through double mastectomies, reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiation and, most recently, having her ovaries removed.

"I went from being an international photojournalist to being a breast-cancer patient with no insurance," Goodwin said, trying to hold back tears.

She thanked York Hospital's Living Well program for providing her with basic necessities throughout her journey.

"I was able to meet with a nutritionist," she said. "I got gas cards and a card for Hannaford's to buy dog food, toilet paper and vegetables."

The Breast Cancer Living Well program provides support to those who have been diagnosed with, are undergoing treatment for, or are recovering from breast cancer. The program helps with emergency assistance for women and their families who may be struggling financially during breast cancer treatment.

There are also programs for pre-operative reiki to reduce stress, massage therapy, meditation, creativity and exercise including yoga, nutritional guidance, self care, and a dedicated, facilitated breast-cancer support group.

"I'm standing here because you're sitting there," Goodwin told the guests at last night's event. Many in the audience wiped their own eyes.

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