If there’s one thing that Vineyarders know how to do, it’s throw a good party.
Even when the occasion for the party isn’t the most uplifting.
Two years ago, doctors diagnosed Dede Hagen — a 45-year-old West Tisbury resident, mother of two and teacher at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School — with melanoma. It’s been two years and there have been too many surgeries to count. “I’ve got nine pages of printouts documenting all the surgeries and consultations she’s had at Beth Israel [Hospital in Boston],” her husband, fine art painter John Hagen, said last week.
Saturday evening, the Hagen family — including children Hannah, 7, and Garret, 10 — will have an excuse to forget about doctors and surgeries and trying times for a few hours at a fundraiser held in their honor.
“Dede was one of my daughter’s life-changing teachers,” said Elliott Bennett, a former charter school teacher herself who now teaches biology at the regional high school and has spearheaded efforts to organize the event. “She is such a passionate person who is so caring. I go to church with her and, here she is going through all of her suffering, and she still worries about other people. She is dealing with this with such grace and strength.”
The financial burdens of Mrs. Hagen’s ordeal have been hard on the family — first Mrs. Hagen had to stop working and then Mr. Hagen did, too. And the couple take regular trips to visit doctors in Boston. So with that in mind, Mrs. Bennett decided to organize the fete.
In addition to providing an evening of fun — Jerry Bennett and the Sultans of Swing will perform, there will be passed hors d’oeuvre, a pasta dinner and a silent auction — the event will raise much-needed money for the family. Admission is $20.
In true Vineyard fashion, the community has rallied for the party, which kicks off at Mediterranean Restaurant at 6:30 p.m., continues with dinner at 7:45, live music at 8:30 and ends at 11.
“I knew the family was in need,” said Mrs. Bennett, who is married to the Sultans of Swing frontman. “I teach full-time and there wasn’t much I could do, and then Jerry thought his greatest gift to someone would be music.”
With the help of charter school parent Sarah Aliberti and others, Mrs. Bennett put together a great lineup for the evening, including an auction which boasts items like Jay-Z concert tickets, works from local artists and cooking classes with the Island cookbook author Cathy Walthers.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Mrs. Bennett said of the support from Island retailers, artists and residents. “People have been so generous.”
Mr. Hagen echoed the sentiment.
“It absolutely blows us away how supportive the Island has been and is,” he said. “Without either one of us having immediate family here, the Island has been more than family to us.”
If you can’t make it to the fundraiser, but would like to contribute to the family, please send a check to You’ve Got a Friend (Dede Hagen) c/o Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, P.O. Box 1069, 78 Main street, Edgartown, MA 02539.
The Hagens will thank you for it.
“She’s my night and she’s my day,” Mr. Hagen said of his wife. “When she’s not sleeping, I’m not sleeping. I’m really running the house, taking the kids to school, making lunches and meals and doing the dishes, the laundry, walking the pets and organizing the trips back and forth to Boston. That’s my whole arena now.”
A Benefit Concert for Dede Hagen and Family is Saturday, Jan. 23, from 6:30 to 11 p.m. at Mediterranean Restaurant in Oak Bluffs featuring Joanne Cassidy and the Sultans of Swing, a silent auction, dinner and dancing. Admission is $20. Tickets available at the door, or at the restaurant, charter school, Bunch of Grapes and Your Market.