fonda_louise_waters_web.jpgAVENTURA — More than 300 residents and elected officials, including state Sen. René Garcia, R-Miami, joined breast cancer survivors for this year’s “Women’s Night Out,” a celebration of survivorship.


The Oct. 27 event, hosted annually by Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, the Aventura Diagnostic Breast Center and the Aventura Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Miami-Dade County, was the culmination of a month long initiative to raise awareness of breast cancer and early detection by promoting yearly mammograms.

“This year’s ‘Women’s Night Out’ event surpassed all our expectations, thanks to the hard work of our dedicated staff and tireless community partners who helped us exceed our goals of raising awareness for breast cancer and screening methods,” Heather Rohan, CEO of Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, said in a statement.

“Because of these efforts, we performed almost 1,000 mammograms in October and provided hundreds of ­women with the tools they need to fight this disease,” Rohan said.

Each year, Aventura Hospital and Medical Center recognizes women in the community for their courage in the face of breast cancer with its “Amazing Grace” award.

As part of this year’s festivities, elected municipal officials nominated survivors for “Amazing Grace” awards in the form of one-of-a-kind vases created by students at the Miami International University Art & Design.

They included Rosa Naccarato, Miami-Dade County; Lisa Levine, Aventura; Qunea Gordon, Hallandale Beach; Fonda Louise Waters, Miami Gardens; Tanya Wilson-Sejour, North Miami Beach; Janet Cini, Sunny Isles Beach; Sally Brevig, Weston; and Maritza Lewin, Aventura Hospital and Medical Center

“I am so lucky to be alive,” said Lewin, the Amazing Grace recipient nominated by Aventura Hospital and Medical Center. “It is so important to stay positive and appreciate what you have, and I am so thankful to my extended family at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center for supporting me through my treatments and my recovery.”

The celebration has become one of Aventura’s signature events and attracts hundreds of residents to the Aventura Diagnostic Breast Center and the Aventura Comprehensive Cancer Center for an afternoon of relaxing activities such as massages by massage students at Miami Dade Medical College and makeup tips by Mary Kay.

Guests even painted small clay ribbons provided by Color Me Mine for an art installation in the Aventura Diagnostic Breast Center.

“Blogging with, I write and talk about relationships but perhaps the most important relationship a woman can have is with her own body,” said Julia Yarbough, Emmy Award-winning news personality, who was guest emcee at ‘Women’s Night Out.’ “I'm honored to be able to take part in Women's Night Out and help encourage more women to make breast health a top priority.”

An Aventura Hospital statement cited figures from the American Cancer Society showing that there will be around 230,480 new cases of breast cancer by the end of 2011 but if the cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is about 96 percent.

The mission of “Women’s Night Out” is to celebrate the more than two million people in the United States who have survived breast cancer due to improved treatments, preventive measures and increased mammography screening rates.

Aventura Hospital and Medical Center offers support and education on breast health awareness through group sessions co-sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the Aventura Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For more information, call 305-682-2151. To schedule a mammogram at the Aventura Breast Diagnostic Center should call 1-877-341-7017.

Photo: Fonda Louise Waters