Approximately 200 members of the Portland State University community raised nearly $5,200 at a benefit held recently for Susi Rourke, a graduate student of communications and conflict resolution and a mentor in the University Studies program at PSU. Rourke, 38, was diagnosed with colon cancer Oct. 8.
Evin Cole, graduate student of public health and mentor in the University Studies program, is Rourke’s best friend. She and nine other mentors organized the benefit in three weeks with the help of other mentors and a lot of community support.
“I’m totally overwhelmed by [the community response]. It gives me a lot of hope that there are so many wonderful people in the world who are so giving,” Cole said.
Some mentors also donated art or other items for the silent auction.
“More than half of the mentors were involved in some way,” said Candyce Reynolds, director of the University Studies mentor program.
The benefit also helped serve the mentor program’s intention to execute a community service project as part of its efforts to demonstrate ethical and social responsibility.
About 70 items were auctioned at the benefit on Friday in Shattuck Hall, including gift baskets, dinners, memberships to the Oregon Peace Institute, an hour-long massage, hotel stays, artwork and much more. Almost all auctioned items were donated by individuals or local businesses.
Money was also raised by donations at the door and the sale of beer and wine to those of age. Food and soft drinks, also donated to the event, were available at no cost.
The benefit also included a raffle, a DJ and live performances by Earl and the Reggae All-Stars.
According to Reynolds, many items were donated to the Benefit due to the work of Beth Kaufka, a mentor of the University Studies program and a coordinator.
“She worked amazingly hard,” Reynolds said.
What little the coordinators had to buy was purchased with money from a general fund, which consisted of money donated by students, instructors and other members of the PSU community.
Rourke was unable to attend the benefit because she had her second chemotherapy treatment that day, but Cole read a statement prepared by Rourke that expressed her wish for people to educate themselves about their family histories and get tested for those conditions than run in their families.
Sonja Young, graduate student of conflict resolution and mentor in the University Studies program, said there were two main reasons for holding the benefit: to raise money for Rourke and to provide an opportunity for the people who care about her to demonstrate emotional support.
“It just is really overwhelming to be part of this,” Young said.
Rourke, who lives alone with two enormous dogs, Bella and Bayou, underwent abdominal surgery to remove a tumor three days after she was diagnosed and started chemotherapy treatment two weeks ago.
Friends say the treatment leaves her feeling weak and nauseous, as though she were suffering from the flu. Rourke’s mother, who lives in California, has been able to pay a few visits to her daughter. A friend who lives in Rourke’s building also helps out by taking the dogs for walks. Cole visits Rourke as often as she can to bring groceries, help around the house and provide emotional support for her friend.
Rourke can neither work nor attend school. Although her insurance pays for about 70 percent of her hospital bill, “the 30 percent she has to pay is in the thousands,” Cole said.
Starbucks has started a fund for Rourke at West Coast Bank. She was an employee of the company when she was diagnosed. Donations can be made in the name of Susi Rourke by calling the bank at 1-800-895-3345.