Local businesswomen honored at Pink Pearl Gala

The North Fork Breast Health Coalition’s sold-out 26th annual Pink Pearl Gala honored three local businesswomen for their commitment to serving and supporting those dealing with breast cancer on the East End.

Dr. Michelle Iona of Healing Points Acupuncture & Wellness Center in Riverhead, Denise Zuhoski Schlachter of Making Waves Hair Studio in Cutchogue and Charlene Bugdin of Blue Sage Day Spa all received Community Spirit Awards for “their commitment to serving and supporting the East End breast cancer community,” according to the group.

“We are honored to be part of your lives,” president and gala co-chair Melanie McEvoy Zuhoski said to the honorees. “You inspire us to be better every day and I hope we’ve provided you with as much support as you give us.”

Dr. Iona, a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese herbs and a functional medicine practitioner, has been involved with the coalition for so long, she’s lost count of just how many years it’s been.

“I would imagine it’s been about 15 years,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s something that is always near and dear to my heart for many reasons…one of the things I love doing it is helping people feel better, so the thought of being able to play a role in someone’s life, no matter how small it may be, was definitely my motivating factor.”

While Ms. Zuhoski Schlachter and her staff at Making Waves Hair Studio provides haircut and styling services free of cost to the coalition’s “survivors and thrivers,” she aims to provide a lot more than that.

“It is humbling that these women put their trust in me during, before and after their treatment, that I can provide a place that they feel safe and relaxed,” she said. “At Making Waves, it is our goal to bring ease and comfort to everyone that enters our lives. I am honored to be a part of their journey.”

Charlene Budgin has hosted the NFBHC’s spa day event since 2018, which include massages, reflexology, facials and more. She also donates some of the products in her salon for the women to use.

“This is a day of pampering. We have about 20 to 25 breast cancer survivors and thrivers that attend, she does it at her salon we go on a Sunday afternoon when there’s nobody else there and it’s a day of services.”

Ms. Bugdin wants to provide a space where they feel special, comfortable and relaxed because of what they go through.

“Blue Sage Day spa has committed over the years to help bring a bit of joy and beauty to breast cancer survivors,” Ms. Budgin said as she received her award. “It is a humbling experience to offer this day of beauty and to support the good work of the coalition. I am also humbled that you would honor me in this way. Blue Sage Day spa does things from the heart and my heart is truly grateful and I am a recipient of the community spirit award along with all the wonderful and dedicated Blue Sage Day Spa staff. I thank you for this honor.”

The nonprofit organization raised $141,000 in total including, $25,000 from raffles for the organization’s Keri Lynn Stromski Stage IV Fund, according to Ms. McEvoy Zuhoski.

The Pink Pearl Gala, held April 12 at Sea Star Ballroom in Riverhead for the first time, was adorned with 400 hydrangeas, one for every guest in attendance. The hydrangeas were provided by Ed and Emilie Powers of Powers’ Country Gardens and Blooms by Ollie.

The gala — named for the late Pearl Philindas, a past president of the coalition  — included a cocktail reception, seated dinner and dancing to music by DJ Phil Schmidt of Make Some Noise.

The success of the gala, which had been sold out for weeks prior, would not have been possible without the community’s support.

“The community has been above and beyond amazing,” Ms. McEvoy Zuhoski said.