For Pete’s Sake: The Love Story Behind the Charity that Keeps on Giving
By Marybeth Hagan
Makala Ashmar with her boyfriend, Chris Godbey, on a
For Pete’s Sake-sponsored trip to Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
Jacklyn, a For Pete’s Sake Charity recipient, poses with her family on a For Pete’s Sake respite vacation in Sea Isle City.
The For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation began with young love. Charitable love keeps events – like FPS’s 5th Annual Buttoned-Up BBQ benefit in Stone Harbor – going. Steadfast love from supporters, partners, staffers, volunteers and others keeps FPS growing.
All that love begets even more love because For Pete’s Sake provides customized, cost-free respite vacations for cancer patients ages 24-55, their children and a primary caregiver.
“For Pete’s Sake, Take a Break From Cancer” is the nonprofit group’s mantra.
FPS has deep roots in Sea Isle City, especially Mary Anne Pastry Shoppe on 44th Street, which the Kuttler family has owned and operated in SIC for 50 years. Decades ago, when For Pete’s Sake’s founder and CEO Marci Schankweiler was teenaged Marci Kuttler, she worked for her parents, Mariann and Herb Kuttler, in the family bakery during the summer.
Schankweiler and her young co-workers’ days brightened up when lifeguards, like “salt of the earth” Pete Bossow Jr., stopped by the shop, she says, adding, “Pete loved chocolate doughnuts.” The young ladies behind the counter at Mary Anne Pastry Shoppe encouraged such visits by slipping free doughnuts to the lifeguards. “I think my mom knew!” Schankweiler says, softly.
Apparently, the namesake of For Pete’s Sake’s loved more than those free doughnuts.
Pete Bossow and Marci Kuttler went on to become high school and college sweethearts before they married in 1994. Four years later, Pete was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He died at age 30 on Sept. 1, 1999. “It’s been 20 years,” Schankweiler says with a sigh.
During Bossow’s time as a cancer patient, family members and friends provided the couple with a Caribbean vacation to St. John and Nevis so that they might take a break from the rigors of cancer treatments. It did wonders for their spirits, Schankweiler says. While there, Bossow said that he wanted other cancer patients to have similar opportunities. It fit.
“Pete was humble, compassionate and inclusive. He even had a sense of humor,” Schankweiler says. “The For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation was Pete’s idea, not mine!”
Bossow’s spouse assured him that she would keep his dream alive. The first cancer patient and family members to benefit from an FPS respite vacation came to Sea Isle City in July 2000.
Since then, For Pete’s Sake has given respite vacations to as many as 7,000 people. Respites to destinations near and far include an assortment of supportive and fun amenities, along with spending money.
The foundation has also served 9,000 people with other offerings. These include various means of outreach or follow-up with patients; referrals to other nonprofit resources as needed; events like a day at the beach; a monthly newsletter with helpful tips on coping with cancer; assorted literature on subjects like managing grief; angel pins for children left behind by cancer; a Carry On Club for widows and widowers who bear loses due to cancer, and more.
“For Pete’s Sake is a ministry that begins with respite,” Schankweiler says. “Respite is an entry point into a beautiful, supportive community.”
Two local fundraising events will help to sustain that community.
Scene at a past Buttoned-Up BBQ to benefit For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation.
For Pete’s Sake’s 5th Annual Buttoned-Up BBQ will be held on Saturday, Aug. 10, from 7-11pm at 96th Street and the beach in Stone Harbor. The event, sponsored by the Young Friends of FPS, will feature barbecued delights from Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse in Philadelphia, open bars with tastings, raffle prizes, a dance floor and DJ, a ShutterBooth photo booth and plenty of seating. Trolley transportation will also be provided to the after-party at The Whitebrier with no extra cost.
Coincidentally, Aug. 10 happens to be the date when this year’s Buttoned-Up BBQ’s featured speaker, Makala Ashmar, 28, was diagnosed with intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer, one year ago. This unusual cancer condition usually occurs in people after age 50. “It is a very rare, very aggressive form of cancer,” Ashmar explains.
“I’ve been in treatment for quite some time now,” says a matter-of-fact Ashmar, who continues to work full-time at the Lehigh Valley International Airport.
Treatment included surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to remove 60 percent of Ashmar’s liver last September, followed by a pill form of chemotherapy in November. The outcome of those treatments looked promising. “They thought I beat it,” Ashmar says. So a For Pete Sake trip to Puerto Morelos, Mexico, in March was planned for Ashmar and her boyfriend, Chris Godbey, courtesy of FPS and Apple Vacations.
Travel, accommodation and recreational partners unite with FPS in providing respites for patients and their loved ones. Partners include airlines and other transportation services, private homeowners, resort property companies, attractions and community establishments, among others. For Pete’s Sake works closely with leading cancer centers in accepting recommendations for prospective travelers, all the while keeping patients’ best health interests in mind.
Shortly before her much-anticipated trip, Ashmar learned from her doctors that the cancer was back and had metastasized. She and Godbey seriously considered canceling the trip to Mexico. “We went. It was the best decision I ever made,” says Ashmar. “I had five days to be myself. It was the first time that I felt normal since June of 2018,” when the illness first surfaced.
“The trip came at the perfect time. I was told that not a lot could be done [when the cancer returned]. So I was in a tough place mentally.”
Such mental breaks from cancer and treatments can have a medical impact, she adds. After the trip, Ashmar’s tumor markers were down. Because of this reduction, she is now able to have additional surgery to remove more of her liver shortly after her speaking engagement at the BBQ.
To register to attend For Pete’s Sake’s 5th Annual Buttoned-Up BBQ, go to
https://takeabreakfromcancer.org/buttoned-up-bbq/. For more information, or to volunteer to help set up and break down of the event, email FPS Community Engagement Manager Caitlin Quon at Caitlin@takeabreakfromcancer.org or call 267-708-0510.
Because of Pete Bussow’s history as a member of the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol, the 49th Annual Captain Bill Gallagher 10-Mile Island Run on Saturday, Aug. 3, 5:30pm, in Sea Isle City, will partner with For Pete’s Sake in fundraising, says FPS Philanthropy Manager Ellen Vind. A team of 15 to 20 FPS runners will participate in the run. Additional runners or volunteers to assist with the For Pete’s Sake water station are welcome. To volunteer, start a team or join Team FPS, email Caitlin@takeabreakfromcancer.org or call 267-708-0510.
Like the bakery where For Pete’s Sake took root, the foundation thrives thanks to family support. Mary Anne Pastry Shoppe, and third-generation owner Matt Kuttler, hosted the bakery’s annual “Give a Dollar, Get a Donut” fundraiser for FPS in July. FPS founder Marci Schankweiler remains grateful to her second husband, Mark Schankweiler, and their children, Maura and Rose Schankweiler, for enthusiastically supporting For Pete’s Sake.
Not only that, Marci Schankweiler’s mother, Mariann Kuttler, who retired from working in the family’s Sea Isle City and Doylestown Mary Anne Pastry Shoppe locations, now works as the For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation’s program coordinator.
“We were there to support Pete [during his battle with cancer] and we continue to support his wish for this foundation,” Mariann Kuttler says. “There is integrity in this program.”
And love – past, present and future.
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