Bill Kilgus is bringing light to the Naples community.
And this time, his light is helping shine awareness on breast cancer.
For more than 20 years, Kilgus, founder of Trimmers Holiday Décor, and his design team have played the role of Santa Claus — decorating Southwest Florida developments, clubhouses and businesses to welcome the holiday season.
Projects have included charitable donations to local fire stations, the Make A Wish Foundation and area residents affected by serious illnesses.
“It feels good,” Kilgus said, describing community service as a “relief” to his demanding work schedule.
“We are so busy (during the holidays), it is crazy,’’ he said. “But you get to see the smiles on faces, and that’s what makes it worth it.”
It is Kilgus’ most recent contribution that has had the most profound and personal effect on his career.
After recently losing his sister to pancreatic cancer, his Breast Cancer Awareness Tree on Third Street South in downtown Naples serves as a reminder of the disease’s presence.
“It is an absolute sin,” he said. “Cancer is nasty. I don’t want anybody to lose a sister or a mother.”
The 40-foot tree, adorned with 300 strands of pink lights, took a full day to complete.
Local artist Audrey Heffner created its oversized and custom-designed pink ribbons.
“We wanted to go over the top with it,” Heffner said. “It was a lot of fun to do.”
While the process of creating the tree in a limited amount of time proved to be stressful, the result has stopped bystanders in their footsteps.
Old Naples resident Liza Carini recalled the first time she saw the tree.
“It’s a good memory for those who have beaten the disease,” she said. “It’s also a good reminder for others.”
Because the tree reminds and encourages women to undergo frequent testing, Kilgus said he thinks his goal of raising awareness has been accomplished.
Early detection, he said, is the key to preventing unnecessary deaths.
According to recent statistics from the American Cancer Society, 61 percent of breast cancers are diagnosed at a localized stage, for which the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.
Lori Bassano, the sponsorship chairwoman for Naples’ Cancer Society chapter, also encourages residents to treat the tree as a call to action.
“Any sign that will remind women to get tested is essential,” she said. “Whether it’s a small ribbon on someone’s lapel or this big artistic piece, anything has the potential to save a life.”
Kilgus also hopes his project will inspire local organizations to join in on the effort.
With October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month coming to an end this week, Kilgus already is setting his sights on the future.
He hopes to see the tree become a Naples tradition, which he said can only get “bigger and better.”
For now, he will keep his sister’s memory close to his heart and continue to give back to the area that has given him success.
“We love helping out the community,” he said. “If we can help in any way, we’ll do it.”
Locals and tourists can enjoy the Breast Cancer Awareness Tree for the remainder of October.
In November, the tree’s decorations will transition into the holiday décor for which Kilgus is known.
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
The next Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure will be Saturday, March 13, 2010, in Estero.
Information: (239) 498-0016 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure® and the Komen Southwest Florida affiliate started when Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer. In 1982, that promise became the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement.
Information: www.komenswfl.org or (239) 498-0016.
The following are remaining breast cancer awareness campaigns ongoing in our area:
* Tickled Pink is dedicating October to Breast Cancer Awareness by donating 10 percent of proceeds to Women Supporting Women. Customers who spend $500 or more during October will receive a Love Quotes pink pashmina. The store is at 1300 Third St. S., Naples. Information: (239) 435-0004.
* Brighton Collectibles is fighting breast cancer through October at its Coconut Point store with its “Power of Pink” jewelry
collection. Brighton will donate $10 to support the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southwest Florida “Project Hope’’ initiative for women
recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Information: www.brighton.com
* Marissa Collections at 1167 Third St. S., Naples, is selling the following during October to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Southwest Florida: A pink tinted, treatment lipstick by Smashbox Cosmetics for $18 with all the proceeds donated to the Komen Foundation and a pink Rumba Time watch for $20 with 50 percent of the proceeds donated to the
Komen Foundation. Information: (239) 263-4333.
* Breast cancer survivors can take six one-hour sessions of gentle exercise for free on Tuesdays through Nov. 10 in Fort Myers; on Wednesdays through Nov. 11 in Naples; and on Saturdays through Nov. 14 in Cape Coral. This is funded by grants from the League Club of Naples and the Cape Coral Foundation and presented by Lymphedema Resources Inc. Information: (239) 989-1009 or email@example.com
* Naples Grande Beach Resort is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Veuve Clicquot Happy Hour by giving a donation to the local Susan G. Komen for the Cure affiliate for every Veuve Clicquot Rose or Pink
Ribbon martini ordered
during October. Information: (239) 594-6363.
* Coconut Point Restaurant Week, Coconut Point, Estero, Monday through Nov. 1.
Participating restaurants will offer a $25 prix fixe menu with 20 percent of all proceeds benefiting the Komen Southwest Florida affiliate. Information: komenswfl.org
to view participating
* The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Southwest Florida affiliate and the Collier County chapter of Hadassah are hosting an educational luncheon from 11 a.m. to
2 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort, Coconut Point, Estero. U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will discuss her experience with breast cancer and her introduction of the Early Act for young women. $30. Information: (239) 498-0016.
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Information about Bill Kilgus and his company, Trimmers Holiday Décor Inc.: www.trimmersholidaydecor.com
More about artist Audrey Heffner: www.audreyheffner.net