SHADES OF HOPE: Suzanne Donahue was relentless about getting the word out about skin cancer, the disease that took her life in May at the age of 40. She was a spokeswoman for the Melanoma Foundation of New England, joining its speakers bureau to warn high school and college students about the dangers of tanning and the importance of sun safety.
On Tuesday, the foundation holds its Shades of Hope Gala at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston. As part of the gala, the first Suzanne Donahue Keeper of the Hope Award will be presented to her parents, Kathy and David Donahue of Scituate.
“She always thought those at the foundation were great advocates, they were a wonderful support group,” Kathy Donahue said of her daughter, a single woman who was a manager for a financial resource company. “The goals of the foundation were extremely important to her, and beneficial to so many.”
Suzanne Donahue was not a tanner, but was active in water sports, her mother said, teaching swimming, growing up sailing, always on the water and taking care to not overdo the sun.
“But we have Irish skin,” she said. “We’re more prone to melanoma.”
Suzanne Donahue first noticed a problem with moles on her body getting bigger and had them checked out, which resulted in a diagnosis of melanoma five years ago.
“She had some heavy-duty treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital and was clean for three years,” her mother said. “Then on the third anniversary of her diagnosis, it came back gangbusters.”
The disease and resultant battle against it never diminished her spirit.
“She had a beautiful smile and a direct look,” her mother said. “She was always a ‘nice to see you’ type of person.”
She had friends who she maintained from elementary school through college and beyond. A college roommate once said that Suzanne always cared about her and her family, always asking about them, Kathy Donahue said.
“She was a conscientious and caring friend,” she said, “and an A-number-one daughter. She was very adventuresome, she was always finding us great places to go. She always found the right spot.”
She worked hard at her job, Kathy Donahue said, “and being a single woman in the financial industry is not always easy, but she got tremendous accolades from those she worked with. We got more than 250 donations for the foundation from people she’d worked with years ago at Putnam and State Street Bank.”
And she was a great speaker, her parents discovered, as she gave eulogies at funerals for her grandparents.
“We were very impressed by what a good speaker she was, she gave amazing eulogies,” Kathy Donahue said.
After her diagnosis, she got involved with the foundation through symposiums, then with patient support, helping others, and donating her time and energy to speaking out about the dangers of sun exposure. (For more information, visit www.mfne.org.)
“She said, ‘Look at me, this is what you don’t want to happen to you,’ ” Kathy Donahue said.
The Shades of Hope Gala will be hosted by Gail Simmons, a judge on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” as well as a skin-care advocate.
The Donahues were surprised by the award they will receive and pleased that their daughter’s name will continue to be linked with the inspiration she provided.
“She was the kind of person who worked very hard,” Kathy Donahue said, “but never realized how much people appreciated how much she did.”
YOUTH WINS PHOTO CONTEST: William Sullivan, 11, of Bridgewater beat more than 50 entries to win first prize in the “Take Your Smile on Vacation” photo contest, run by Arch Orthodontics. His photo, by his mother Karin Sullivan, was taken at Six Flags Adventure Park in New Jersey during the summer, with William feigning a scream, baring his braces-covered teeth, at a life-sized shark replica. The photo won him an iPad.
STUDENTS’ WORK PUBLISHED: Three Milton Academy students had their creative works chosen from nearly 4,000 submissions for publication in the 2012 edition of “The Apprentice Writer” at Susquehanna University, which publishes work from high school students in a 20-state area. The students are Nicole Acheampong of Sharon and Emeline Atwood and Haeyeon Tina Cho, both of Milton.
DOCTOR WALKING THE WALK: Physician Robert McGowen of Southcoast Health System in Wareham will lead a “Take a Walk with a Southcoast Doc” Saturday, a program designed to get people out and about. It starts at 1 p.m. at Southcoast Health System, 100 Rosebrook Way in Wareham, led by McGowen, who is a primary care physician at the Rosebrook practice and chief of primary care services for Southcoast’s Wareham region. The walk starts with a presentation inside the Rosebrook building, followed by a walk through cranberry bogs guided by McGowen and staff from A.D. Makepeace, a cranberry-growing company. All ages are welcome. To register and for more information, call 800-497-1727, or visit www.southcoast.org/walkwithadoc.