More than 80 area women converged in Middletown this weekend for the 2nd annual Beauties Fighting the Beast Wine-ing for a Good Cause fundraiser event.
"Considering the weather that we had to deal with, I couldn't have been more pleased that so many ladies were willing to join us in our fight," said Beauties Fighting the Beast team captain Stephanie Ripanti.
The event allowed the Relay for Life team to raise just over $3,000 towards their goal, something that Ripanti says all the "beauties" are passionate about.
"Of course we're friends and we have a good time but we're all very serious about this," she said. "Sadly, everybody seems to somebody who's had cancer so we all know how important money is in this fight. The money we raise goes directly to the American Cancer Society, which will go directly to patients and families struggling right now."
Ripanti added that the team always welcomes new members—two more signed up Saturday night—but that the commitment can be daunting. Every team member has to be able to commit to at least $100.
"It's something you have to be passionate about," Ripanti said.
Ripanti's passion comes from personal experience. In July 2009, at only 31 years old, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It took a year of surgeries and treatment before she would be declared cancer-free. During those long, hard 12 months, though, Ripanti found herself overwhelmed by the support she received from family and friends.
So, in 2011, she reached out to those same people to tell them that she was ready to "give back." Her plan was to start a Relay for Life team. She understood, more than ever, the importance of raising money and awareness. Plus, she could think of no other way to turn her experience into something positive.
To her surprise, every person she reached out to was ready to wage this new battle with her as well. They became Beauties Fighting the Beast, quickly garnering a lot of attention.
"We adorned ourselves in teal tanks and black tutus and people seemed to notice," she said, adding that the team has grown every year as more and more local friends show interest in "making a difference."
By 2013, the relay track was often a sea of teal and the team went into the relay as the number one fundraiser, finishing the relay in the number two spot.
"I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and while I would never want people to hear those three words—you have cancer, I am proud to say that we have turned my experience into something positive," Ripanti said. "Beauties Fighting the Beast is unstoppable."