Kathy Wiz sports hot pink during Broadwalk on the Boardwalk
Kathy Wiz: Don Your Boas!
Sometimes a dark cloud can indeed have a silver lining. It was the dark cloud of breast cancer hovering over her and her sister that gave Rehoboth Beach resident Kathy Wiz the inspiration to be one of the organizers behind Broadwalk on the Boardwalk, the recent fundraiser for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. The silver lining? The money raised by the event helps to facilitate the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Kathy was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Long Island when she was eight years old. She married at the tender age of 21 and had three children; one in ’72, another in ’73, and the last in ’75. She and her ex-husband grew up together and dated in college, but they divorced in 1985. Kathy stays in regular contact with her kids and her three grandchildren. 1985 was a difficult year for her, with the end of her marriage and the loss of her brother to AIDS. “It was time to move on,” she declares.
Around that time she became acquainted with Muriel Hogan, but their friendship would remain entirely platonic for almost seven years. Kathy decided to kick off this new chapter in her life by returning to school to be a substance abuse counselor. She earned her certification as a Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC), applying her talents at a 52 bed detox hospital. She loved the work, but the agency underwent some changes and she chose to leave.
She and Muriel became serious in ’92, and in ’94 they took up residence together in Rockland County, NY. Kathy enrolled in a teaching program, but still missed her counseling duties. Another silver lining glimmered on the horizon, however, and in 1996 she found what she calls her dream job: Counseling children of alcoholics and addicts. Dealing with such deep-seated trust issues was a challenge, and Kathy emphasizes, “You have to be willing to have your heart broken.” She did the work for ten years, and to this day she underscores the fact that it was a privilege to work with these special kids.
A mutual friend offered the women the use of a condo in Myrtle Beach, NC, but another friend (who was apparently familiar with Myrtle Beach—I’m just guessing here…) strongly urged them to stop off in the unquestionably more open-minded Rehoboth Beach. Kathy and Muriel responded in chorus, “Where?!” They stopped here on their way to North Carolina and then continued south, only to spend about a day there before high-tailin’ it back to Rehoboth for the rest of their vacation.
As they explored our beach town and all it has to offer, they stumbled upon Kathy Weir and the fledgling CAMP Rehoboth. Weir was her typically gracious self and spent time with them, explaining the mission and accomplishments of the organization. “If it weren’t for Kathy Weir, we’d probably not be here now.”
In 2003, Kathy Wiz and Muriel bought a condo in Rehoboth Beach as an off-season hideaway. Of course, the typical story unfolded: (1) Buy a place at the beach— just as a getaway, of course. (2) Love it. (3) Wonder why you can’t be here all the time. (4) Love it some more. (5) Resolve problem by moving here once and for all. (6) Still lovin’ it.
And just like clockwork, the women bought a house in 2007, becoming full-time residents in 2008. “We never looked back,” Kathy smiles. “We got here and we were home.”
She celebrates her dedication to CAMP Rehoboth by serving as a member of CAMP Rehoboth’s Board of Directors, among other things. Recently she suggested the creation of an event that would be centered on breast cancer. The resulting Broadwalk on the Boardwalk was made a part of CAMP Rehoboth’s annual Women’s FEST held this year from
April 11-14. Time was carved out on Sunday morning of the big weekend and the efforts of CAMP Rehoboth, together with the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, culminated in a massive group of boa-clad women trekking down the Boardwalk. There was no registration, everybody was invited, and donations were voluntary. Corporate and private contributions brought the total to $8500!
Boas, you ask? Why, yes: Each participant was allotted a boa: Regular participants displayed pink ones and cancer survivors sported hot pink. In fact, the event will be expanded next year to include survivors of all types of cancer, and those marchers will wear bright lavender boas. “It’s a fun event for a serious cause,” smiles Kathy, “and let’s face it, you just can’t take yourself too seriously when you’re wearing a boa.” Words to live by!
As our interview came to an end, I asked her how she maintains all that energy. There’s a lot of emotion and sentiment behind Kathy’s dedication to the cause and to the event, given the loss of her brother, her sister’s courageous fight against the disease, and her own survival. “There are no regrets,” she says. “Just lessons.” More words to live by.
Bob Yesbek is a Rehoboth Beach resident. Email Bob Yesbek