More than 400 supporters, families and friends filled the stylish Orlando Gardens Event Center on September 23rd to help TEN mark its 15-year journey. It was 2008, when a handful of men gathered in the home of prostate cancer survivor, and founder of the awareness and advocacy organization, Mellve Shahid Sr., to encourage one another on how to survive the insidious disease.
In a classy showcase of the true meaning of “saving lives,” about 60 prostate cancer survivors decked out in the trademark of survivorship – blue ties – graciously paraded into the ballroom to the 1970s hit song, “We Are The Champions,” by the rock group Queen. The audience showered the men with a standing ovation.
Terrence Freeman, a 3 ½ year prostate cancer survivor, was one of the men making the entrance into the ballroom to the ovation. Freeman said the walk in was “emotional” and most importantly, a testimony to the preciousness of life.
“The camaraderie and the walking into the applause was exhilarating but it was probably just as great hanging out with the fellas before we marched in,” he said. “It was emotional to walk in knowing that you’re making a statement that you’re a survivor. For me, surviving isn’t as important as the message it’s sending to those who are in the audience that you were walking with the men who are actually alive.”
As a survivor, Freeman, 72, was awarded the Isadore Wayne/James Horn Service Award for his work as Information Technology (IT) specialist for TEN’s monthly Support Group Meetings held at his church, St. Philips Evangelical Lutheran Church. He said blessings abound in his life, and the role he plays in the meetings is his giving back to the organization, an attitude planted in him by his parents, who were the “hurry up and help somebody kind of people.”
Another man hearing the cheers was Leroy Gill, 75, a 20-year survivor who is an active, longtime member of TEN. Gill said as he looks back over the years of working with Mellve and the organization, it is amazing to see how far things have progressed.
“When we first started out there were only a few of us. Now 15 years later, it’s amazing at how things have changed,” he said. “I was in awe to see all the guests who came out to celebrate with us and most importantly to see all the survivors. The number has grown significantly.”
Gill took special note of the black suit and blue ties the men wore.
“When the survivors marched in, it was stunning to see men marching in their black suits and blue ties and claiming victory over prostate cancer and letting the world know that we are survivors,” he said.
“That was very impressive.”
Although the night belonged to the survivors, the gala was a public acknowledgment of supporters of The Empowerment Network. The evening also shined a spotlight on the TEN’s mission “to provide culturally sensitive education, prevention, intervention, research, support and advocacy services to males and their families on prostate cancer. TEN promotes best practices designed to help decrease the rate of death caused by cancer and to improve health outcomes among men and their families.”
Local well known radio personality, Tony Scott, served as Master of Ceremonies. Scott was featured on billboards along with Mellve with the “get tested for prostate cancer” message during September’s National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. TEN’s Executive Director, Robin Wright-Jones, interacted with Shahid and Scott on stage.
Shahid, 70, a 16-year prostate cancer survivor shared his heartfelt passion about the organization he
eads with the audience, describing the 15-year journey of TEN as “a real milestone” in its development.
“For 15 years, TEN has been working hard in the community creating awareness about this disease,” he said. “For 15 years, TEN has been making a different in the lives of so many men that have walked this journey with prostate cancer. For 15 years, this organization has been embracing families stricken with this disease. I’m honored to be a part of this historical occasion tonight, and to know, that this grassroots organization has played a major part in changing the conversation around this disease in our community.”
Shahid went on to say that TEN has changed men’s thinking about the disease, that more men are taking the simple PSA blood test that’s “saving lives in our community.”
“Men diagnosed with this disease are no longer living in the shame, disgrace and embarrassment of this disease,” he continued. “Why? They have a support group and a prostate cancer organization to help with the psychological and the emotional side effects from this disease.”
He said with the help of God many friends have been made during the past 15 years, saying that it truly has been a team effort.
Numerous awards and recognitions were given out during the gala celebration. The honorees were: Prostate Cancer Survivors.
In addition to Freeman earning the Isadore Wayne/James Horn Service Award, John Gordon received the Volunteer of the Year Award for his photography contributions to TEN “Wind Beneath Our Wings” Awardees to individuals for their contribution to the mission of TEN.
- Rev. Richard Ashley, Pastor, St. Philips Evangelical Lutheran Church
- Dr. Bettina Drake, Professor of Surgery, Division of Public Health, Washington University School
- Dionne Ferguson, Board President, St. Louis Philanthropic Organization
- Matt Fulson, Founder/President, Fulson Housing Group
- Dr. Kendra Homles, President/CEO, Affinia Healthcare
- Randy Sanderson, Finance Director, 1st Baptist Church of Chesterfield
- Dr. Keisha Windham, Assistant Director, Community Outreach and Engagement, Division pf
Public Health, Siteman Cancer Center
“The Blue Diamond Award” – Given to a TEN Board Member for Outstanding Service
- Doug Schoen, Director of Community Investments, Edward Jones
The evening also featured a tribute to the late Isadore M. Wayne, Sr., co-founder, and director of
Community Affairs & Outreach for TEN, who passed away on May 15, 2015