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Events to benefit breast cancer victims honor Dakota Ridge grad

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By Emile Hallez

  Life is not the same for Deana Paprocki since she lost her 28-year-old daughter, Tessa, last year to breast cancer. But part of the grieving mother’s healing process is to let other women suffering from the disease know they aren’t alone.

Paprocki and her surviving daughter, Amy Bartleson, are organizing a bowling benefit in Tessa’s memory that will raise money for cancer research and help provide mammograms to uninsured women.

“It’s kind of like my healing,” Paprocki said. “(I want) to help other people that don’t have insurance.”

Tessa faced one of the hardest days of her life shortly following what may have been her best. The Dakota Ridge High graduate was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer late in 2008 just days after giving birth to her son, Landon.

She died on June 24 of last year, five days before her 29th birthday.

“My sister was so young when she was diagnosed, and then she passed away,” Bartleson said. “There’s a hole in all of our hearts. There’s a big piece of our lives that’s missing. I think it’s made us cherish each other a whole lot more and want to do right by other women that have this horrible disease.”

Bartleson and Paprocki have worked tirelessly to piece together the March 13 benefit, which is a preamble to the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk later in the year. The two are hoping to raise up to $5,000 for Team Tessa at the April 25 event, with proceeds from the bowling benefit going toward that goal.

“She was actually at the last Making Strides walk last year,” Paprocki said. “She was in a wheelchair, so we took her.”

The community’s outpouring of support for Tessa shortly following her diagnosis was inspiring. Two benefits in less than two months after Tessa’s diagnosis raised about $34,000 for her treatment. More than 100 people turned out for a basketball game held in her honor in December 2008 at Dakota Ridge.

“One side of the gym was completely full,” Bartleson said. “She didn’t realize how many people cared about her.”

The level of support may have been unprecedented, but no one was more surprised than Tessa.

“She would always think of someone else before she thought of herself. So when the fund-raiser started happening when she got sick, she was so overwhelmed that she didn’t know how to handle it.” Paprocki said.

Tessa, who was part of Dakota Ridge’s first graduating class in 1998, had a lot of friends. More than 500 people paid tribute to her at her funeral service.

“I think there were at least 100 people at the hospital when she passed away,” Paprocki said. “We filled every nook and cranny.”

Evident as it is that Tessa’s absence affects many, the benefit events give hope that the memories of the young mother will live on. And they’re part of the first steps on the long road of a healing process for her family.

“She was my sunshine. She was my life,” Paprocki said. “Now my sunshine is not as bright. My life is not as full.”

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.

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Bowling event in memory of Tessa Paprocki to benefit American Cancer Society

11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 13

Brunswick Zone Lakewood, 1135 S. Wadsworth Blvd.

Cost for up to three games is $15 for adults and $10 for children ages 10 and under.

Contact Deana Paprocki at 720-209-5426 or Amy Bartleson at 303-949-4659 to R.S.V.P.

E-mails can also be sent to deana.paprocki@cbre.com or cubs_chicago_girl@yahoo.com.