Bonnie Berry receives this year's Elizabeth Heins award

ALTONA - Bonnie Berry of Plattsburgh has been named the recipient of the 2010 Elizabeth R. Heins Inspirational Survivorship Award.

Berry, a retired administrator from the Peru Central School District, was given the honor during annual Treasure Chests Soir e May 20 at the Rainbow and Banquet Hall.

Clinton County Legislator Sara E. Rowden, D-Area 4, was joined by event coordinator Elli Collins in presenting the award to Berry, crediting her for her work in the community to promote cancer awareness and raising money for cancer research. Berry, a breast cancer survivor herself, is known for working with events like the annual Plattsburgh Relay for Life, Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure and the Treasure Chests Soir e.

"Her real strengths are her ability to reach out to people, to share open and honestly, her personal story of breast cancer, to keep moving forward and never give up," said Rowden.

Rowden's words were echoed in letters nominating her for the award from friends like Gretchen "Libby" Goller of Champlain.

"Bonnie is always willing to share her story and to help anyone going through this journey of breast cancer survivorship," Goller wrote. "Her strength, courage, compassion and humor affects everyone she meets. She is definitely filled with an enormous zest for life."

Donna Eisele of Peru also credited Berry in her letter of nomination for being a member of The Boobie Sisters, a comedy troupe composed of local breast cancer survivors, bringing smiles to the faces of people the group entertains.

"[Bonnie] inspires many by her past actions, fight for life and living it now to the fullest," wrote Eisele. "Elizabeth Heins would be proud to know a woman of Bonnie Berry's dedication, involvement and character is selected for the award."

Berry was visibly taken back when she took the stage, but joked with Rowden and Collins as she accepted the award.

"I'm not supposed to get my make up a mess before we get up here and sing," Berry said, laughing with tears streaming down her cheeks. "It's an honor to be here tonight as a survivor and also to join the ranks of those who been an inspiration to all. It's just overwhelming."

Berry now joins the list of past recipients of the award, which includes Gracelyn Murphy, Cindy Topnick, Marie Beemer, Libby Goller and Barb Nephew.

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