It’s a Great Day to Be Alive

The pastime of upcycling, flipping and finding hidden treasures at vintage markets, flea markets and resale venues has become a national pastime. But that’s not what inspired Gary Klapperich, a 3rd generation Dexter resident and owner of Klapperich Welding since 1979, to establish the “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” fundraising event that features a rummage sale, auction, 50/50 raffle, cook-out and more. Gary was responding to a much more serious trend…he started the event to help fight cancer.

His renewed health gave him the chance to marry the love of his life, Karin, on September 13, 2014. And, yes, Gary will tell you, “That was the greatest day to be alive. She is my very best friend.”

Nearly twelve years ago, Gary was diagnosed with colon cancer. Having never been to a hospital before, he shared the diagnosis was terrifying. To treat the cancer, Gary underwent a successful surgery at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea, followed by chemotherapy at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor. It was during the long hours of infusion that Gary kept his spirits up with the Travis Tritt tune “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive.”

Gary was so grateful for the care he received from his surgeon Jennifer Kulick, MD, and oncologist Katie Beekman, MD, and their care teams, he joined with fellow members from the Ann Arbor Fraternal Order of Eagles #2154 and the Dexter American Legion #557 to launch an annual fundraising event named for the song, to support cancer care.

They were inspired by the care Gary received and the idea that same level of care could be possible close to home for more families. They were early to join the community in supporting St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea’s current Cancer Center. Gifts made it possible to open the Cancer Center in 2014 and offer state-of-the-art radiation, chemotherapy and surgical services as well as a healing environment for personalized care.

“I wanted to show my gratitude and help others. I’m so lucky I have some great people in my life to help me do that and who take pride in supporting the cancer center like I do,” said Klapperich. “I think people are drawn to rummage sales because it’s exciting to find something others see as broken or forgotten, and you take it home and shine it up and make it new again. When you have cancer, you really rely on your doctors to fix you up and make you new again, and their dedication to giving you a second chance makes you love life more than ever.”

The “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” event gained popularity over the years. Gary and friends have raised an overall total of $275,000 in support of cancer care at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea.

Today, Gary gets regular colon cancer screenings and is cancer free. His renewed health gave him the chance to marry the love of his life, Karin, on September 13, 2014. And, yes, Gary will tell you, “That was the greatest day to be alive. She is my very best friend.”

Gary, Karin and the other leaders involved remain dedicated to ensuring event guests, many who would not likely get screened otherwise, understand its benefits and know that St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea has seamless screening, diagnosis and treatment options.

“Every year, this fundraiser brings together friends and families to support the fight against cancer in our community,” said Nancy Graebner, president, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea. “In no small part due to Gary’s own inspirational cancer journey, what began as a small community effort has grown to have a significant impact.”

To learn about how you can support St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea, please contact
Katie Elliott, Development Director
Katie.Elliott@stjoeshealth.org or 734-712-3919.


If you are interested in learning more about colon cancer screening, call
734-593-5650.

Colon Cancer Screening

  • Colon Cancer Screening In 2017, there was an estimated 95,500 new cases of colon cancer in the U.S.
  • The slow growth from precancerous polyps to invasive cancer provide a unique opportunity for prevention and early detection.
  • Screening is recommended beginning at age 50 for people at average risk, and earlier for people at increased risk because of family history or certain medical conditions.

* https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures-2017-2019.pdf

Giving Back is Our Philosophy- Luanne and Howard Booth

13 years ago, when Luanne Booth was treated for endometrial cancer, she never expected to be facing the disease again. The surgery went well, lab results indicated the cancer was gone, and her prognosis was good.  But in January 2017, Luanne received the diagnosis that the cancer was back and a second surgery was not an option. She didn’t hesitate. She knew exactly where to go for treatment, St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Cancer Care Center.

Luanne and her husband, Howard Booth, moved to the area from Ypsilanti where he had been an Eastern Michigan University physiology/ biology professor and vault coach for 47 years and she had been Head of Middle School at Greenhills School in Ann Arbor.  They found St. Joe’s Chelsea near their new home to be a first class hospital with the small community feel that inspired their move, and have trusted the hospital with their health care needs ever since.   

One of the most impactful moments Luanne recalled from her treatment was Dr. Rebecca Liu, a specialist in gynecological cancers, recommending a clinical trial. Luanne and Howard felt it was important to participate. “While we hoped the trial protocol would help fight my cancer, we also highly value scientific study and the difference it makes improving treatment,” explained Luanne.

Saint Joseph Mercy Health System is one of only 34 National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Programs (NCORP), and holds the highest grant score in the nation.  St. Joe’s NCORP, housed in Ann Arbor and offered through all our Cancer Centers in Chelsea, Brighton, Livonia, Canton and Pontiac serves 5,000 patients eliminating the costs, health risks and stress of traveling by bringing research trials close to home.

“I feel so lucky I was a candidate for the trial arm of the study. It is in the second phase and showing promising results,” Luanne said.  As part of the trial, Luanne underwent rigorous treatment including radiation five days a week for five weeks while undergoing chemotherapy for one day a week for 7 hours each time, which caused debilitating side effects. Following that, Luanne was treated with three sessions of outpatient brachytherapy, benefitting from the continuum of care between St. Joe’s Chelsea and Ann Arbor, housing one of the nation’s few high-dose-rate / low-dose-rate brachytherapy surgical suites.

Through it all, Luanne maintained her positive outlook and gratitude for the care she received. Most of all, she admired the staff’s professionalism, warmth and kindness, and personal interest. “You don’t really know the depth of the preparation and side effects of treatment until you’re going through it, and the staff is with you every step of the way, helping you cope, encouraging you, and gently managing things like your violent stomach upset, fatigue, and collapsing veins. You can tell they love their jobs and their patients.”

The Double Ribbon Mobius is a 9-foot tall coated aluminum sculpture chosen for its dynamic, strong and heart-like appearance. The Double Ribbon Mobius is a 9-foot tall coated aluminum sculpture chosen for its dynamic, strong and heart-like appearance.

During treatment, Luanne and Howard also noticed the beautiful, well-appointed features donors made possible. “When you go into St. Joe’s Chelsea Cancer Center, and you’re so warmly received by the

 concierge Ken and department secretary Betty, they have set up a convenient card swipe for check-in, there is a warm fireplace, comfortable seating, gorgeous paintings, the food is like room service, you make friends with all the patients and spouses, and the staff is so cheerful, there is just one thing that doesn’t fit, the view out the window to the bleak rooftop,” explained Luanne. “Howard and I have a philosophy, we give back any way we can. I’m a musician and painter, so the idea of beautifying the rooftop with a sculpture appealed to us.  We wanted our gift to make the experience even better for other patients and to be a lasting reminder of our gratitude to the staff for their wonderful care.”

“Howard and Luanne Booth’s generous support is making our incredible Cancer Center even better,” said Judy Stratman, Director of Development. “We are fortunate to have supporters who understand the important role that art plays in the healing experience. Their gift will have a lasting impact on patients and families who rely on St. Joe’s Chelsea for cancer care.”

I Feel Lucky

Luanne Booth wanted to do more than sit on the sidelines watching her husband, Howard, a World Champion in pole vault and other track events and current men’s vault coach at EMU, so she also joined the Michigan Senior Olympics.  She has run in distance and sprint competitions and qualified for the nationals.

This same champion spirit helped her get through cancer with courage, hope and determination. Just three days after finishing a three-month-long rigorous treatment plan at St. Joe’s as part of a phase 2 study that included beam radiation, chemotherapy and brachytherapy, Luanne joined Howard for a trip to Washington DC for the 2017 National Street Vault at Freedom Plaza. The treatments were physically draining and she spent the trip in a wheelchair, but she was not going to miss it.

“I got around pretty well,” Luanne said. Today, less than a year later, Luanne is building up her strength and stamina to run again, is filled with vibrancy, and takes walks every day.  Her resilience and healing journey inspire everyone she knows and meets. Luanne will tell you, “I just feel very lucky.”

Howard and Luanne Booth 2013 Senior Olympics

For information about cancer services call 734-712-HOPE or visit stjoeschelsea.org/chelsea-cancer-care.

To make a gift to St. Joe’s Chelsea today, visit: giving.stjoeshealth.org/chelsea

Or contact the Office of Development:

Katie Elliott, Director of Major and Planned Gifts
734-712-3919 or
Katie.Elliott@stjoeshealth.org  

Karen Campbell, Gift Officer
734-712-2890 or
Karen.Campbell@stjoeshealth.org  

Melissa Sheppard, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations
734-712-4079 or
Melissa.Sheppard@stjoeshealth.org

(Source: “Gift of Health Spring” 2018)