Somerton resident honored as Volunteer of the Year

Sally Ro­ten­ber­ger, her hus­band Kenny and daugh­ter Abby at the Ces­caphe Ball­room in North­ern Liber­ties. Ro­ten­ber­ger was honored as Race for the Cure Vo­lun­teer of the Year. (Brad Lar­ris­on)

The Susan G. Ko­men for the Cure Phil­adelphia af­fil­i­ate cred­its vo­lun­teer Sally Ro­ten­berg with chan­ging the face of breast can­cer with the love of a sis­ter, the ded­ic­a­tion of a fight­er and the soul of a sur­viv­or. 

On Fri­day night, the char­ity honored the Somer­ton res­id­ent with its Vic­tor Dun­off Vo­lun­teer of the Year award dur­ing a kick­off cel­eb­ra­tion for the up­com­ing 23rd an­nu­al Race for the Cure.

Ro­ten­berg, a 66-year-old re­tired teach­er, ad­dressed char­ity sup­port­ers who gathered at the Ces­caphe Ball­room, at 923 N. 2nd St. in North­ern Liber­ties.

“I hope to see our Ko­men mis­sion, of ‘A World Without Breast Can­cer,’ be­come a real­ity in the near fu­ture,” she said.

More than 300 people — spon­sors, health-care pro­viders, act­iv­ists and sur­viv­ors — at­ten­ded the af­fair.

Ko­men is gear­ing up for its race on Moth­er’s Day, which takes place near Eakins Oval, near 24th Street and the Ben­jamin Frank­lin Park­way. This year’s event is set for Sunday, May 12. Spon­sors in­clude Can­cer Treat­ment Cen­ters of Amer­ica, Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter, Aria Health and Di­etz & Wat­son Inc.

The even­ing in­cluded din­ner, singing, dan­cing, awards and grant present­a­tions.

Ro­ten­berg treas­ured the award, named in hon­or of the Dun­off fam­ily, early sup­port­ers of the char­ity.

“They were the very first people in­volved in get­ting Ko­men Phil­adelphia off the ground. They are very ded­ic­ated to the cause,” she said. “I am very honored that I was se­lec­ted to rep­res­ent all the vo­lun­teers. We’re sav­ing lives.”

East Tor­res­dale’s Bob and Di­ane Miller were among the vo­lun­teers in at­tend­ance. The Millers have been vo­lun­teer­ing since Di­ane fin­ished her treat­ments for breast can­cer in Janu­ary 2000.

The couple be­came so in­volved that they chaired the Race for the Cure dur­ing the 2003-04 and 2004-05 cam­paigns.

Today, the re­tir­ees — he was a phar­macy man­ager, she a teach­er — spread the word at schools, health fairs and busi­nesses. They staff in­form­a­tion tables, per­form of­fice work and take part in the Call for the Cure telethon on CBS 3. They re­com­mend self-ex­ams and mam­mo­grams.

“We’re big ad­voc­ates for early de­tec­tion,” Di­ane said.

Bob wears a pink and white rib­bon, the sym­bol of a “co-sur­viv­or.” Friends and fam­ily mem­bers are act­ive in the cause, in­clud­ing their grand­son Evan, a 6-year-old Frank­lin Towne Charter School first-grader.

One of the high­lights of the Race for the Cure is the Sur­viv­or Parade of Pink, when Di­ane and oth­er can­cer sur­viv­ors are in­vited to walk down the steps of the Phil­adelphia Mu­seum of Art.

“I hope one day all the sur­viv­ors walk down the steps and say, ‘It’s over. Thank God,’ ” and we all clap,” she said.

For a dec­ade, Ro­ten­berg sup­por­ted friends at the Race.

Then, in Decem­ber 2006, she was dia­gnosed with breast can­cer. A mam­mo­gram re­vealed a lump in her right breast. Doc­tors per­formed a lumpec­tomy, and she un­der­went ra­di­ation treat­ments.

Ro­ten­berg, who used to watch sur­viv­ors walk down the art mu­seum steps, was stunned at the dia­gnos­is, but thank­ful for sur­viv­al.

“I nev­er thought I would walk down those steps,” she said. “I’m very lucky they found the breast can­cer, and I’m a sur­viv­or.”

Ro­ten­berg raises money through Pretty in Pig, a cam­paign that al­lows schools, busi­nesses and oth­ers to donate money to Ko­men by put­ting change and bills in bright pink plastic piggy banks. She also speaks about breast can­cer to raise aware­ness of the dis­ease.

“It’s a pas­sion of mine,” she said.

Ro­ten­berg, chair­wo­man of the Pretty in Pig school out­reach pro­gram, thanked her friends and col­leagues in the edu­ca­tion field. One of her close al­lies in the fight is Bettyann Creighton, a Fox Chase res­id­ent and dir­ect­or of the School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia’s of­fice of health, safety and phys­ic­al edu­ca­tion.

The honoree also thanked her fam­ily, in­clud­ing hus­band Kenny and her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, for their act­ive sup­port.

“I am very proud of my fam­ily’s in­volve­ment,” she said.

Ro­ten­berg, whose oth­er vo­lun­teer causes in­clude the Ron­ald Mc­Don­ald House and Aid For Friends, urged people to be di­li­gent about their health. The Amer­ic­an Can­cer So­ci­ety re­com­mends an­nu­al mam­mo­grams for wo­men start­ing at age 40.

“I am a six-year sur­viv­or of breast can­cer,” Ro­ten­berg said, “and would not be one had I not had a mam­mo­gram.” ••

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