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When hundreds of people come together for the Westbrook Elks Club’s 10th annual Beach Jam for Breast Cancer Patient Care Services on Saturday, Aug. 11, Carolyn Vallee will see her efforts to help bring the event together come to fruition. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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Carolyn Vallee, one of the organizers of the Westbrook Elks Club’s annual Beach Jam for Breast Cancer Patient Care Services, has a quick comparison for the event now hitting its 10th year: “Lollapalooza.” Carolyn has been volunteering with the event for the past five years, and in that time, she has seen the event grow.
“Four years ago, the event got so big, the only way to grow the event was through sponsorships,” Carolyn says.
Carolyn now works with acquiring sponsorship for the event, after she originally started working in the beer truck five years ago.
Part of what’s motivated Carolyn to get involved in the event was the loss of a friend in 2011, and her mother-in-law, who is a 35-year survivor of breast cancer.
“I saw both sides of that very ugly coin,” says Carolyn.
The 2018 version of the event will take place on Saturday, Aug. 11 from 1 to 9 p.m., rain or shine, at the Westbrook Elks Lodge at 142 Seaside Avenue. The event costs $25 in advance and $35 at the door; children under 12 enter for free. The music festival comparison is apt: The event will feature eight bands Carolyn calls “shoreline favorites” that play for 45 minutes each.
There’s also an excellent opportunity for attendees to remember why they’re there.
“One of the things that has become my favorite is we find a survivor and have them write something and read it,” she says. “We like to spotlight someone who has survived, it’s very moving.”
The survivor’s message is one of motivation and hope to show that the disease can be overcome. To that end, proceeds are split between Smilow Cancer Center and Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center.
In addition to her work with the Beach Jam, Carolyn has been involved with the Westbrook Music Boosters for nine years.
“It’s a small music parent group,” Carolyn says.
Carolyn, who served as the group’s president for a time, says she got involved with this group when her son entered middle school. Carolyn says the group established scholarships for band and chorus members who are awarded at the last concert of the year.
Volunteering wasn’t something that Carolyn was always into.
“As an adult, once I had kids” is when the volunteering started, Carolyn says. “I was on five committees at one point.”
Her favorite part of volunteering is seeing the results of the work. Carolyn says in particular she likes to volunteer with the Elks Lodge, where she is now an officer. The group, which helps with fundraising and charity endeavors, “has alot of overlap” with other community groups.
“I like the closeness of it,” she says. “We do alot of good work, we send a lot of money to local events. We’re always accepting applications.”
Carolyn hopes to move on from being an officer in her lodge to be the Exalted Ruler, the highest position in a local lodge.
Carolyn grew up in Rhode Island and moved to Westbrook in 1997 when her husband, Glenn, received a new job in the area. Ordinarily, one of the things that Carolyn now likes about the area was something that upset her when she first moved here.
“It made me sad at first not knowing everyone,” says Carolyn, who quickly saw how everyone in town seemed to know one another.
As she became more involved in the community and met people, that aspect turned into something she grew to like.
“I like the Mayberry effect,” Carolyn says.
Carolyn works in the office of the Community Music School in Centerbrook. She started her work there in 2011 after first volunteering to help a friend out. A few weeks later, the school created a position for her and she stayed.
“I took all the volunteer work and it got me a job,” says Carolyn.
Carolyn says she takes care of the minutia of running the school, such as payroll and scheduling.
In her spare time, Carolyn says she enjoys spending time with her Elk Lodge family and describes herself as “just a mom” to her son Ed, a meteorologist, and daughter Emily, who will attend Western New England University, where Glenn currently teaches.
Beach Jam for Breast Cancer Patient Care Services
The Westbrook Elks Club’s 10th annual Beach Jam for Breast Cancer Patient Care Services is on Saturday, Aug. 11 from 1 to 9 p.m., rain or shine, at the Westbrook Elks Lodge at 142 Seaside Avenue. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door; children under 12 enter for free. For more information, call 860-399-9191 or visit www.westbrookelks.com.
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