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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Off The Sidelines: Confessions of a Practical Blond

By Sharon Leary
12:12PM / Thursday, April 26, 2007

Sharon Leary is an iberkshires columnist and a community health advocate for the REACH Community Health Foundation.
I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but I’m wondering how long the American public’s attention will be held on the latest buzz topic. I’m speaking of the hype around global warming.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am quite happy that the spotlight is currently on global warming and the damage we’ve done to the environment. I was inspired in college to become more environmentally conscious, thanks to the MASSPIRG organization. I am a huge proponent of recycling and reducing emissions.

I’m hopeful that with the support of celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, former Vice-president Al Gore and others that this will become second nature to us and we will begin to repair the damage we’ve done.

A lot of important global issues are brought to the forefront because someone decides to do something.

Famine, AIDS, Apartheid

Famine in Africa was brought to our attention through the work of Bob Gelfdolf. He wrote a song and had a bunch of his pals come over and they recorded it. “Do They Know It's Christmastime” was a major hit in 1984. The success of the song inspired American and Canadian artists to each record a song to raise money for famine relief. And then there was the concert. You may remember it: LIVE AID.

Elizabeth Taylor became an advocate for AIDS research when her friend and fellow actor Rock Hudson was diagnosed and then passed away from AIDS. The red ribbon became a symbol for AIDS research support. For the next few years, celebrities were seen wearing red ribbon pins at all major awards events.

Through his work, Bishop Desmond Tutu brought the shame of apartheid to the world. I believe college students around the world were very instrumental in bringing this particular topic to our attention as well. I remember a specific billboard on Route 9 heading into Hadley that was constantly marked with graffiti if a company who did business in South Africa used it for advertising.


MCLA Sorority Sigma Gamma Phi members spent Sunday washing cars and raising money to benefit others.
International companies were “encouraged” to stop doing business in South Africa until apartheid became a non-issue. This didn’t happen until Nelson Mandela was released from prison and then became President of South Africa.

In 1981, Elizabeth Glaser - wife of actor Paul Michael Glaser of Starsky and Hutch fame - contracted HIV through a blood transfusion while giving birth to her first child. She unknowingly passed it on to her daughter while breast feeding. Her second child contracted HIV in utero. She was unaware that she had HIV or that her children had contracted the disease as well until her daughter became very ill.

When her daughter died from complications from AIDS, Glaser took action and started the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Through her efforts, public awareness was raised about HIV infection and spurred funding for the development of pediatric AIDS drugs as well as mother-to-child transmission.

Fox And Armstrong

Michael J. Fox announced that he had been struggling with Parkinson’s disease for 7 years in 1998. He started the Michael J. Fox Foundation and has given out millions for research on this debilitating disease. He also ignited fires on both sides of the stem cell research debate by publicly supporting candidates who supported this research in the 2006 elections.

"Livestrong" is a catch phrase, but it’s also an attitude. Lance Armstrong founded the Livestrong Foundation in 1998 after surviving testicular cancer. He went on to win six Tour de France championships.

About three years ago, Livestrong began selling a simple yellow rubber wristband to raise money for cancer research. This yellow wristband spurred a trend that is still running strong. To date, the Livestrong Foundation has raised over $9 million for cancer research, education and advocacy.

Do Something

The week of April 15-April 21 was National Volunteer Recognition Week. All of the charities/organizations I mentioned above would not be where they are without some inspiration and a lot of hard work from volunteers.

The importance of volunteers and being community minded was reinforced over the weekend for me. My usual Sunday routine of 10:30 a.m. Mass at St. Francis, picking up the Sunday paper, making myself a decent breakfast/lunch and hanging out in the sun with my dog Remy didn’t materialize.

I did attend church as usual. I was even on time. I sat in a different area then I normally do. During Catholic service there is a lot of movement. You sit, you kneel, you stand, you kneel again, you stand again. I don’t think anything about it. It becomes automatic after awhile.

After the gospel was read and the sermon was over, I noticed some commotion a few rows ahead of me. One of our older parishioners was not feeling well. Folks around her were helping her out, but I felt like I needed to do something.

I had a chance to assist when one of the parishioners went to get some paper towels. Kathleen Carbone is a wonderful lady who has an amazing voice and who is one of the most compassionate women I have met in my life. I asked her what I could do . Had anyone called for an ambulance yet? No. I grabbed my cell phone and made the call. I did something.

The ambulance came and took our parishioner to the ER. Through the remainder of the mass I was thinking, someday that could be me. I made a pact with myself and God. I would no longer just do the expected - I would also try to do the unexpected. I would become accomplished in the art of follow-through.

After mass, I stopped Kathleen and asked her what she knew about the parishioner. Not too much, only her name and that she had no family in the area. Normally at this point I feel like I’ve done what was expected and move on.

Instead, Kathleen, Lorraine Richardson and I went to the ER to check on our fellow parishioner. We all wanted to make sure she was OK and to see if we could assist her in any way because she had no family close by. Happily, she was fine. It seems the moving around during the service did something to her blood pressure and she passed out. She was a little embarrassed about what happened, hence the reason why I leave out her name.

Later that same day I had a chance to test my new pact. A trip to Wal-mart now becomes the closing for this story.

Seven young women from the MCLA Sorority Sigma Gamma Phi and a resident adviser were holding a car wash to raise money for cystic fibrosis and the Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). On this beautiful Sunday, they decided to do something for someone else. Sarah Flint, Daria Gagliardi, Casey Devlin, Jennifer Garcia, Jackie Williams, Danielle Broderick, Staci Graves and R.A. Kristan Moyna all donated their time that day.

I gave them a donation and wanted to make sure that people knew who they were. I want to thank them, they certainly deserve it.

So now it’s your turn. Don’t just do the expected, do the unexpected! Follow through! Be somebody that is known as a "do-er."

Thanks to all those Berkshire region residents who selflessly spend their free time creating a greater good.
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