A blanket of support (l-r): Tammy Coleman, Karen Rice, Towanda Peete-Smith, Emerle D. Smith, Cher Smith, Brianna A. Smith. (Courtesy photo)

Pink blankets – all 100 of them destined for cancer survivors – accented a family affair at The West Cancer Center on Monday (Oct. 29).

The collective force powering the blankets’ arrival featured Emerle D. Smith, the mother of The New Tri-State Defender’s late Publisher Bernal E. Smith II, and other members of Mr. Smith’s family – his two sisters (Karen Rice and Cher Smith), his widow (Towanda Peete-Smith) and his daughter (Brianna A. Smith).

Along with Tammy Coleman, founder of Tiara’s Teardrop, the Smiths made the presentation of the blankets to Keri Burnette, public relations manager/ special events coordinator for The West Cancer Center.

It was the continuation of a commitment.

In 2015, Emerle D. Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her husband, Bernal E. Smith Sr. passed away in 2011 after a hard fought battle with colon cancer. This is why in 2016, when Coleman approached Bernal E. Smith II to assist her in putting on her annual breast cancer event, he had an acute personal awareness of the need.

For two years, Mr. Smith hosted the event, normally held in October. Last year, he was set to donate blankets to The West Cancer Center as usual but died a few days after the event., however he passed away unexpectedly a couple of days after the event.

“After learning of Mr. Smith’s unexpected passing, I was uncertain about the future of the blanket drive,” said Coleman. “I then received a call from Bernal’s daughter, Brianna, who still wanted to move forward with the drive. She was ecstatic and so was I.”

Brianna Smith had joined Coleman and her father for the first donation of blankets in 2016.

“I knew my dad was very excited about being apart of the blanket drive,” she said. “So once he passed away, my family and I felt we had a duty to make sure we continued to support Tiara’s Teardrop and its initiative.”

Last year, Brianna and her mother teamed up with Coleman to deliver blankets on behalf of Mr. Smith. This year, “We got the entire Smith family involved,” she said.

Coleman usually hosts her annual breast cancer event in October, with guests having the option to donate towards the blankets when purchasing a ticket. However, this year the event is being held on Dec. 9.

“That didn’t stop our family from upholding the commitment we made to Tammy Coleman, The West Cancer Center, ourselves and to my dad’s legacy,” said Brianna.

“My grandmother sponsored all 100 of the pink blankets on behalf of The family of Bernal E. Smith II. We we’re adamant about presenting the blankets to The West Cancer Center during breast cancer awareness month, and we made it happen.”

(For information on donating to Tiara’s Teardrop, contact Tammy Coleman at www.tiarasteardrop.org.)