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Jeannie Beahan, photo courtesy the Tucson Citizen.

Sew inspirational
Tucson Citizen 'Unsung Hero' award:
Tucsonan's army of quilters raises $126,000 in fight against cancer

by Sheryl Kornman
Reprinted from the Tucson Citizen, December 5, 2006

Jeanne Beahan is grateful to be a six-year survivor of breast cancer, but it is not just her survival she thinks about.

Beahan took her love of quilting and her concern for others and created Quilt for a Cause.

Today the nonprofit group is distributing to the Arizona Cancer Center and Tucson Medical Center the $126,000 it raised from the sale of decorative quilts.

The Women's Division of the Cancer Center will get a check for about $63,000, funds restricted for breast and gynecological cancer research.

The Tucson Medical Center Foundation will get $55,000 to buy a diagnostic tool that will reduce the amount of time a women is under anesthesia during a biopsy to detect cancer.

"We were really excited to know we were going to buy this machine for them," said Beahan after she was told she had been named a Tucson Citizen Unsung Hero.

The TMC Foundation wrote a grant proposal and submitted it to Quilt for a Cause asking for the digital specimen radiography system.

The foundation will also get $8,000 to help uninsured women under age 40 who've had a mastectomy and can't afford breast reconstruction surgery.

One of the quilts sold in this year's auction was made by a woman in her mid-60s whose sister died in her 20s of breast cancer.

"She felt helpless," Beahan said. "There was nothing she could do for her sister. But she finally felt there was something she could do for her sister, raise money for breast cancer research."

Another quilt sold in the 2006 auction was made by a woman who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

"Her mother died of breast cancer when she was 6," Beahan said. "She doesn't have a whole lot of energy but she made a quilt. It was important to her."

Beahan had a lumpectomy and radiation treatment for six weeks following her breast cancer diagnosis.

She got her diagnosis just a year after she moved to Tucson from Sacramento, Calif.

There she had made a "block" for a quilt sold at auction to raise money for breast cancer research.

The auction was very successful, she said. "I thought, well, maybe it's time to do something like that here."

Each quilt costs the quilter at least $200 in materials and takes dozens of hours of work.

The first auction in 2003 raised $53,000. It takes three years to sew the quilts and prepare for an auction.

The second auction in 2006 sold 500 quilts. Many were made by members of the Tucson Quilter's Guild, which has about 650 members.

"Our publicity gal got the word out to quilters around the country," Beahan said, and quilts came in from all over the country. A woman in Florida made three.

Kathleen McCulloch, one of three Tucsonans who nominated Beahan, said, "She is an unsung hero in the eyes of many and would be the last to say so."

And she is right.

"Surround yourself with people who are smarter than yourself. I think I did. I rely on them," Beahan said.

Text and photograph ©2006 Tucson Citizen; reprinted with permission.

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