Girls Night Out

The 13th annual Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out will be held April 16, 2019, at Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center in downtown Johnstown. At last year’s benefit, Faith Ellenberger (at left) snaps a selfie with her friends (clockwise, from left) Meghan Stahl-Skinner, Pam McCall, Jayne Hoffman and Amanda Minor.

Gather up your girlfriends, put on your best dress and celebrate a night that has its sights on beating breast cancer.

The 13th annual Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out event will be held April 16 at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center, 301 Napoleon St., downtown Johnstown. 

Doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner to follow at 6:30.

Proceeds benefit the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center in Windber. The money will be used to ensure that the facility has cutting-edge equipment for the detection and treatment of breast cancer and that it can provide free mammograms, genetic testing and other services to uninsured and underinsured women through the Pink Ribbon Care Fund.

Girls Night Out began as a small “pay it forward” project by Oechslin, a breast cancer fighter who was diagnosed when she was 36 and succumbed to the disease on April 9, 2009, at the age of 39.

It was her goal that every woman be educated about breast cancer, understand the value of early detection and receive proper treatment.

“Everyone is going to have a good time while learning about the importance of breast self-exams and getting mammograms,” said Meghan Stahl-Skinner, a chairwoman of the event and board president of the Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out Foundation.

“Taunia would be so incredibly proud at how the community has embraced her mission and continues to support her vision.”

The event will feature a dinner, pink basket raffle, live and silent auctions, an online auction, a purse room and presentations about breast cancer.

Dale Mishler, of Mishler Auction Service, will auction off trips to Tuscany, Italy, Marco Island, Florida, and Chicago; a Gucci handbag; beauty baskets from Cosmopolitan and Real Simple magazines; a condo in Disney World with a Disney gift card; a Vault Salon & Spa package; and a Girls Night Out table for the 2020 event.

Returning this year will be the option to bid for items online during the event.

“This gives people who aren’t coming to the event the ability to be a part of it and bid in real time,” Stahl-Skinner said. 

This year, organizers had “Give Cancer the Boot” pink boots where people made monetary donations in area businesses throughout October.

“We had such a phenomenal response, and that really has helped us to reach our goal of $1 million that we want to hit this year,” Stahl-Skinner said.

“We are so thankful to the community. They really have stepped up and helped us.”

Boots, where attendees can make donations, also will be on tables throughout the event.

The event also will include a video presentation that will feature women who received care at Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center.

Maureen Kimlin, a committee member with Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out and a breast cancer survivor, conducted the interviews with six women, some of whom had breast cancer and others who had suspicious lumps that turned out not to be cancer.

Also featured will be Dr. Deborah Sims and Dr. Trudi Brown, both with the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center, and Kimberly Knapp, a genetics counselor at the facility.

“We have survivors talking about their experiences and some preventative measures on what you should look for from the doctors,” Kimlin said.

“Genetic testing is available at Joyce Murtha, and they talk about who should be tested.”

The video ends with a special “thank you” to those in attendance from Oechslin’s 15-year-old son, Connor.

“The women had excellent things to say, and it’s very heartfelt,” Kimlin said.

The evening’s speakers are Donald Dudley, Oechslin’s father, and Stahl-Skinner and Kimlin, who will introduce the video.

The goal this year is to raise $150,000 to hit the $1 million mark for the breast care center. To date, more than $850,000 has been raised.

Stahl-Skinner said tickets for the event sold out within a week, and she has a waiting list with women hoping to attend.

“Women will take something away from the evening that will help them with their health,” Stahl-Skinner said.

“Women want to give back to the community and help other women who can’t afford to get a mammogram.”

Those interested in the online auction can visit www.togno.org.

For more information, visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TOGirlsNightOut.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.