By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
A woman described as a beacon of hope for others will have that same light reflected back upon her during a fundraiser in her honor Saturday.
The Wishes for a Warrior benefit for Mary Dunbar-Daluisio will take place at the Radisson Niagara Grand Island from 1-6 p.m.
Dunbar-Daluisio is a longtime chair of the Grand Island Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. She faces her own cancer battle today. The event had to take place at the Island's biggest venue to accommodate the anticipated crowd.
Her struggle started in 2005 when she first heard she had a carcinoid tumor. Since then, Dunbar-Daluisio has ridden a virtual Silver Comet of emotions. She has had several procedures performed at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Dunbar-Daluisio said her treatment has been "such an emotional ride," but she is heartened by knowing "that I feel that I'm in the best capable hands between my oncologist and my surgeon, and the care that one receives at Roswell I feel is second to none. If we were that compassionate to each other as they are at Roswell, the world would be a better place."
The recent events of her ongoing care have put her in a position that prevented her from working. Since going on disability at the beginning of July, Dunbar-Daluisio said "two lovely women" from Fuccillo Automotive Group where she works, Michele Kuwik and Nancy Downing, came up with the plan with Mary's sister, Charity Mucha, and daughter, Erin Dunbar, to hold a fundraiser.
None of them knew how to hold an event of this size. For help with the fundraiser, they turned to Relay For Life veteran Becky Stufkosky. "It was like handing it over to a powerhouse, I think," Mary said.
The event is a 180-degree turn from the norm: a benefit for someone who has made it her mission in life to help others. She lost her older sister, Margaret Berdine, to cancer in 1992 and joined the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life on Grand Island, calling it both a great way to honor her sister and to find a cure in our lifetime. Since then, Grand Island has raised more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society.
Dunbar-Daluisio said her oncologist made one guaranteed diagnosis: There will be tears Saturday when her legion of friends and family visit.
"It's hard for me to come to grips with receiving such love, is all I can say," she said, "as far as the people, who have stepped forward to help and make this a wonderful, beautiful celebration of my life."
"I've never, ever done something for a friend or someone in need ever looking for something in return. And that's what kind of makes it overwhelming for me at times, too," she said. "I now realize that the joy of giving that I always have for others, I have to now receive as someone else's joy to give, and it's emotional."