Shepherdstown makes an ‘identity crisis' a fundraiser - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Shepherdstown makes an ‘identity crisis' a fundraiser

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By J.R. WATLAND

For The State Journal

On Saturday, Aug. 9 in Shepherdstown, a cadre of classic cars and limos pulled up the main drag (German Street) and stopped in front of the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant.

That evening, the restaurant was bathed in pink lights with a long red carpet in front of it, resplendent with security guards in black suits and sunglasses. They were guarding stars such as Willie Nelson, Cher and Katy Perry, frocked with blue hair and a pink cherry dress.

Each “star” stepped out of his or her vehicle, then each famous personality paused briefly to strike a pose for the throng of paparazzi and spectators walking out of homes and business to gawk at the spectacle.

Had Hollywood invaded the Eastern Panhandle? Not quite.

The “stars” were actually participants in the fifth annual Identity Crisis fundraiser event. Each participant was decked out in a music industry personality's garb, for five minutes of fame, flanked by paparazzi — in this case, local newspapers and Charles Town Photography Club photographers.

Good Time, Good Cause

The red carpet scene was part of the creative planning and vision of Tara Lowe, event planner for the annual Identity Crisis event. The unique fundraiser involves a different theme each year, this year's being “Music — a Trip in Time.” The Identity Crisis event is to both entertain participants and to raise money for a good cause: breast cancer.

Last year Lowe helped raise more than $7,500 for a local charity, Breast Cancer Awareness—Cumberland Valley (BCA-CV).

Lowe, owner of Tara Sanders Lowe Event Planning and Production and director of advertising for the WV Observer magazine, said the affair takes place at a total of six downtown Shepherdstown businesses: Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant, Shepherdstown Opera House, Devonshire Arms Café & Pub, Tony's Pizza & Stonewalls Pub, Domestic Restaurant and The Mecklenburg Inn.

Several Services

Debbie Kilgore, community liaison for BCA-CV, was on hand for the night's festivities decked out in a Madonna material girl costume. She has worked for the organization since February.

“We provide preventative diagnosis, screenings, mammograms and ultrasounds for people that can't afford it — in need of it,” Kilgore explained. “We also offer after diagnosis services — breast cancer handbook, a Wig Bank where you give them a wig, scarves and hats. I would say 15 patients a month come to see us.

“Not everyone who is screened is diagnosed. We have different locations for the screenings. You apply, get a voucher and take it to the location. We cover Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia, Washington County, Maryland and Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania.”

The BCA-CV offers other services, including providing prosthesis and bras for women who have had mastectomies, an Angel Program for volunteers to be matched up with survivors to write letters of encouragement and a wig bank, which offers wigs not only to breast cancer survivors but also patients with other forms of cancer.

The BCA-CV has been around for almost 25 years and is headquartered in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“I'm super excited about what Tara is doing,” Kilgore said. “Over the past several years, we've covered up to $300,000 in mammograms and ultra sounds for West Virginia alone. I've been through the program.

“I'm a three year survivor. We all have different journeys. Different treatments. When you have a patient come who has had a mastectomy, we have them talk to one of us who have had one.”

Kilgore said it's great to be able to give someone emotional support for something you have gone through.

“It's like a sisterhood,” she said. “It can be even harder on the caregiver. I lost my mom nine years ago to breast cancer. It was way harder to watch her go through it.”

She said events like the Identity Crisis help her organization spread the word about the services they provide to women across three states.

“We do all services for free,” she said. “Sometimes if you don't have the money to have health care, you may not have Internet access to learn about us. I'm so excited that Tara does this; it's inspiring.”

VIP Experience

Before the guests' red carpet arrival in town, the Identity Crisis kicks off for 150 of the more than 1,000 guests at a special VIP party, located at Wild Goose Farm in Shepherdstown.

Owners of the Wild Goose, Cricky Shultz and Michele Shultz, have hosted the Identity Crisis VIP Party for the past two years.

Cricky Shultz, a native Jefferson County resident who works as a land developer and real estate agent, said the property most frequently hosts weddings, along with allowing Meals on Wheels of Jefferson County to host its annual Barn Dance in his barn. His wife Michele met Lowe at a local exercise class and after she learned about the Identity Crisis event and the charity it supported, the Shultzes knew they wanted to help.

“My mom had breast cancer 10 years ago,” he said. “She is a local realtor, Lana Shultz.”

Michele Shultz said their house is meant for something like the VIP party.

“When Tara said her event had grown in size and she needed a bigger place to host the VIP party, we immediately said yes she could host it here,” she said. “Breast cancer is a cause near and dear to our hearts.”

After guests ate courtesy of Real Good Food of Shepherdstown, and listened to the Pat Diggs Jazz Band from Ellsworth Music in Ranson, they headed to Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant to walk the red carpet.

Mary Lowe, owner of Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant, has participated in the Identity Crisis event each of its five years.

“Every year when we participate, we like to change the identity of the Yellow Brick Bank,” said Lowe. “Last year we were the Oscars. This year we are the Copa Cabana Club. It played a big history in new musicians getting their first start.

“We have palm trees and leaves on our columns, and we made the outdoor seating area into the Copa Cabana Stage for our live band.”

Lowe, who has owned the restaurant since 2006, said she likes to not only decorate her restaurant each year for the event but also donate generously to the breast cancer charity.

“There will be donations tonight at the bars. Plus I will give a donation, too — a percentage of the whole day's business at my restaurant, lunch and dinner,” she said. “My mother had breast cancer when I was a child. It's a wonderful cause for men or women. I think everyone is touched in some way.”

Community Experience

The four other businesses, Devonshire Arms Café & Pub, Tony's Pizza & Stonewalls Pub, Domestic Restaurant and The Mecklenburg Inn, also put out tip jars for the charity and offered event participants food and drink specials, music and other fun activities such as photo booths.

The last stop of the night was Shepherdstown Opera House, which was transformed this year into “Club Crisis,” and decked out with a bar, rotating lights on a stage and VJ Paul Surreal Productions, who played music on the Opera House stage.

Lawrence Cumbo, who has owned the Opera House for four years and also participated in the Identity Crisis fundraiser the last four years, said he is happy to help with the event.

“Last year we turned the opera house into a disco,” he said. “This year we had more elaborate decorations and truly transformed it into a club atmosphere.”

Lillian Potter-Saum, owner of Local Source, a store that sells locally made products, was dressed as Joan Jett that evening. She has volunteered to help organize the event for the past four years also.

“Tara is a friend of mine,” she said. “But a lot of businesses here participate. It's hard to say no to Tara.”

Tony Cooper, chief photographer for the fundraiser, agreed.

“I met Tara, and my life has never been the same,” Cooper said. “I believe in the cause, but also, it's just incredible fun. How could you not just love this thing?”

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