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Community rallies around cancer patient

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POLSON — Several local businesses and community members attended a benefit at the Big Sky Bistro in Polson Dec. 5 in support of Julie Berry, a long-time resident and cancer survivor.

The event was well-attended by Polson residents as local band “The Singing Sons of Beaches” belted out humorous and slightly off-color Christmas songs, to the delight of everyone in attendance. 

“We’re happy to help support anyone who pays taxes in Lake County,” laughed SSB guitarist Nick Terhaar. 

“And if they’re paying taxes in Lake County, they certainly do need support,” replied singer Greg Devlin. 

As the cheerful and fun music spread throughout the gallery, those in attendance ate food provided by the bistro, bid on silent auction items donated by local residents and businesses and donated to the cause.

Unlike most benefits, the event was not geared toward raising money for Berry’s expenses. Instead, the event was intended to raise money for Berry’s four children.  

“We just want to give the kids a really good Christmas,” event organizer Nancy Hausermann said. “A lot of people in the community have really helped out with this.”

Hausermann said the benefit raised nearly $2,700 in a single night. When added to $1,200 raised through an open house last week, Berry’s children should have a very wonderful Christmas indeed. 

Dennis and Nila Anderson of Anderson Radio Broadcasting said they’d known Berry for a number of years and that it was difficult watching her go through a severe illness, but it was good to see the community helping her in her time of need. 

“I just think, you know, it’s one of those things where there’s always needs out there that many of us can relate to,” Dennis said. “I think anytime you can help, you need to do that. I’m happy to see some different faces once in a while at different events.”

While unable to attend the benefit, Berry said it was a wonderful and kind gesture and made her feel like her family is loved. 

Berry served as executive director of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County Coalition for Kids for 11 years. In that time, she helped write grants for child and family programs throughout the reservation and Lake County. These projects included securing funding for the local Boys and Girls Clubs in Polson and Ronan, Big Brothers Big Sisters, CSKT Education, CSKT Department of Human Resources Management, Lake County Chemical Dependency and Two Eagle River School, to name a few. Having written and received many of the grants necessary to fund these programs and institutions, Berry said the past few years have been difficult because she’s used to being the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. 

“I’m happy that I’m here, and I am really in awe of the community,” she said, “but at the same time, I’m not surprised. There are so many really good people out there ... It’s really nice to see the community support me and rally behind my kids.”

A single mother with four children, Berry has already survived cancer once. It was in remission for a time, but in January she learned that it had metastasized to her liver, bones and lungs. Even so, Berry said she feels good and is taking a break from chemotherapy while keeping a close eye on the disease. 

Anyone with questions on how to donate is encouraged to contact Hausermann at 871-9784.

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