A knock on the door from a couple passing by Ken Knowles’ Rockport studio kicked off a decade of helping Cape Ann patients with cancer.
“They were happy, smiley, spunky women,” Ken said recently, recalling the day he met Shawn Wilson and Sue Kyle in 2008. “Sue made me laugh a lot. She was the funniest, most vibrant person ever to walk into my studio. Shawn, equally a wonderful person. They lit me right up with their energy. They bought a couple of paintings and they went on their way.”
They could have never crossed paths again, but “the stars aligned in some ways,” said Ken. “Next time we saw each other, it was them coming over again and they asked if I’d be interested in helping with something near and dear to their hearts called “Lights of Love.”
Raising money for cancer services
Shawn and Sue initiated Lights of Love, the annual tree lighting at Addison Gilbert Hospital, in 2008. The event raises money for cancer services for the hospital’s Gorton’s Specialty and Cancer Care Center. It was Shawn and Sue’s way of paying it forward while Sue was being treated for cancer.
“The Gorton’s Center is a wonderful addition to our community, providing some of the best cancer and specialty care in the state,” Shawn and Sue wrote in a letter to the editor of the Gloucester Times in 2011. “If you or a loved one has had the experience of undergoing cancer treatment, you know how important it is to have access to top quality medical care without having to travel to Boston.”
“It seemed like something I wanted to support without a doubt,” Ken said. “They were just so kind and wonderful. That relationship went on and became much more than a business relationship. Every time I see Shawn, I tell her I love her. Sue, too. I miss Sue.”
Fighting a personal battle
Sue died in 2013. She had been a tireless advocate for cancer patients. From her work on Lights of Love to other fundraisers she ran, Sue did everything she could to fight cancer so that others would have the best possible chance of conquering their disease.
“Sue was a very special person, with a quick wit and an amazing sense of humor,” her obituary read. “Sue lit up the room when she walked in with her contagious smile.”
But losing Sue isn’t the only reason this cause hits close to home for Ken Knowles. “My father died of cancer,” Ken said. “That facility wasn’t there when my father died. I’m sure it would’ve been helpful for us.”
Ken, who’s from Rockport, donates an original painting to Lights of Love each year to be raffled off. His art is inspired by the beautiful ocean views of Cape Ann, the area he has called home his whole life.
“I can’t give ten grand to any fund. But, they’ve been able to make as much as that in any given year so far with my paintings, so I really appreciate being able to help that much,” he said.
This year’s painting marks ten years of donating his work to Lights of Love. It depicts Cape Hedge Beach in Rockport. “The summer clouds, summer sun streaming across… It’s a favorite subject of mine,” Ken explained.
When asked what his dad would think of his charity work, Ken said, “He’d be proud. He would want a part in picking the painting and he would want it to be the best thing I possibly make. Looking down, he can see that’s what I’m doing.”
Upholding a tradition of philanthropy
Now in its 11th year, Lights of Love is the top fundraiser for cancer care services at Addison Gilbert Hospital. Volunteers, local businesses, and countless others donate their time, services and energy to make this event special and help cancer patients every year.
“Lights of Love is an integral part of the Addison Gilbert cancer care program. It provides the community an opportunity to give back and help to provide cancer care right here on Cape Ann,” said Cynthia Cafasso Donaldson, Vice President of Addison Gilbert Hospital.
In the past 10 years, donations to Lights of Love have surpassed $200,000.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Gorton’s Specialty and Cancer Care Center at Addison Gilbert Hospital.
For a chance to win Ken’s painting, contact Deb Sacco or call 978.381.7596.
In honor of Ken’s 10th year of donating a painting, raffle tickets will cost $10.
See more details about this year’s Lights of Love here.
Check out Ken’s art.