, Port Arthur, Texas


April 3, 2011

Valero, Betty Ford receive ‘Gift of Life’ awards

BEAUMONT — Nearly 450 supporters of the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program attended the organization's Annual Dinner Meeting on Tuesday, March 29, at the MCM Elegante' Hotel & Conference Center. Breast cancer survivor and former First Lady Betty Ford was recognized with the Julie Rogers “Spirit of Love” Award, and Valero Port Arthur Refinery was honored with the organization's Corporate “Spirit of Love” Award.

The “Spirit of Love” Award recognizes individuals who have exemplified unparalleled dedication, commitment and spirit in the fight against cancer. Steve Ford, son of Mrs. Ford and the late President Gerald R. Ford, accepted the award, which was presented by Beaumont Mayor Becky Ames, on his mother's behalf.

Betty Ford openly addressed numerous causes, including women's rights, and in 1974, forever changed the perception of breast cancer after declaring her diagnosis to the world. Using her journey of survivorship as a symbol of hope, Mrs. Ford saved countless lives by inspiring women throughout the country to seek early detection through cancer screenings, dispelling the shame and fear associated with the disease.

“I am honored to accept this award on Mom's behalf, and I know she is so touched,” Ford said. “When we came to the White House, it was a tough time in our nation's history. Within weeks, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mom understood her special role as first lady and, together with Dad, made the decision to be honest, open and transparent, helping to take the shame off the disease.”

Back by popular demand after his October presentation with Marie Osmond, Ford also served as the meeting's keynote speaker, sharing candid stories about his family's experience in the White House and his career as an actor in over 30 major motion pictures.

“I had the pleasure of meeting Steve Ford when he was here in October, and, like everyone else, I really enjoyed his stories and humor,” said “Gift of Life” supporter, Tracy Byrd, who declared Ford to be an “official Texan” after presenting him a cowboy hat. 

The Corporate “Spirit of Love” Award is given annually to pay tribute to organizations that exhibit outstanding community leadership and share the “Gift of Life” mission of providing quality healthcare for those who are unable to access it themselves.

Port Arthur Mayor Deloris “Bobbie” Prince presented the award to Valero Port Arthur Refinery Vice President and General Manager, Greg Gentry.

“On behalf of the over 800 Valero Port Arthur employees, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for this prestigious honor,” Gentry said. “We consider it a privilege to be a part of the local community and want to continue to give back.”

Committed to serving Southeast Texans, Valero Port Arthur Refinery is a valued partner in championing the “Gift of Life” Program's mission of saving lives and is dedicated to increasing cancer awareness and reducing health disparities in the region. The company has helped the “Gift of Life” provide free prostate cancer screenings and nearly 400 free mammograms, extending the lives of numerous men and three women diagnosed with breast cancer following Valero-sponsored screenings.

The “Gift of Life” also paid tribute to nine courageous individuals, including eight women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 following screenings (and given access to treatment) and a prostate cancer survivor diagnosed in 2009. “Gift of Life” clients, Susan Dimaline and John Cassimere, shared their heartwarming stories of survivorship during the meeting.

“My breast cancer was detected early because of the initial 'Gift of Life' mammogram I received,” Dimaline said. “The 'Gift of Life' meets you where you are and gets you to where you need to be. They are a conduit of care for hope and healing. I have felt deeply loved and respected throughout this experience.”

Cassimere stated, “I thank God for the gift of health this program has provided me with by detecting my prostate cancer, and I am grateful for the sponsors and supporters who make the program what it is. Without their help, I wouldn't have had a fighting chance.”

For more information, call the “Gift of Life” at 409-833-3663 or visit


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