Meet the Crew
Founder & CEO
It was late January of 2004 and Bob and his wife were celebrating her 50th birthday in an oncologist’s office. During a routine physical his primary care physician discovered that his WBC’s (white blood cell) counts were elevated. So off to the oncologist – where he learned that he had Leukemia, more specifically, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. As scary as it was, he learned over time that if you’re diagnosed with leukemia, “CLL” is the best one to have.
Then in february 2010 on the advice of both his primary care physician and oncologist, he was having an endoscopy because of difficulty swallowing. “Not to worry” he was told they’ll scope you and dilate your esophagus and you’ll be better than new. Well so much for that procedure. When he woke up and asked how everything went there was silence. His wife was called and they sat down to meet with the doctor in his office. He entered the office, greeted them, and began to explain that he found a tumor. “Well why didn’t you cut it out while you were down there?” Bob asked. Now try to understand that Bob was a man who thought that Leukemia was like a bad case of the flu six years ago. So just like that, he thought that tumors were just removed with a scalpel, laser beam, whatever. Now those dreadful words, “I’m sorry, it’s cancer.” Cancer… oh no, not me, no way!
Since January 2004, Bob has had to learn to live with CLL. He has learned through the Leukemia Lymphoma Society of Connecticut how to be a four time leading fundraiser by sailing in regattas. Two time Leukemia Cup winner as well as two time chairman. He has learned what it feels like to undergo chemo therapy and have the skin burned off your esophagus from twenty eight fractions of radiation therapy, also how to be involved in your care and seek out the best treatments available.
Now at sixty two, Bob says, “I’m learning how to live. How to live in gratitude for the life I have and the chances I’ve had. Despite all the pain and agony I had to endure, I am in remission! So now it’s my time to give back and help others who are not as lucky as me, a two time cancer survivor” hence, Bob is the founder of Sails Up 4 Cancer (SU4C)!
Allison Blaine Hughes
Allison Blaine Hughes is a local real estate agent, licensed in RI and CT, who specializes in waterfront properties. She is a member of the New Haven Middshore Board of Realtors, the RI and CT MLS, and is certified as an Internet Sales and Staging specialist. Allison also works in Development for the Stonington Community Center (COMO), where her responsibilities include raising funds to help provide high quality, affordable athletic and art programs to children and their families. She also has a background in event planning, catering and art and design and has worked for several other non-profit organizations including the YMCA and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce. Hughes graduated Magna Cum Laude from Boston University with a BS in Mass Communications and went on to a career at Chemical Bank in NYC where she was instrumental in starting “The Office Technology Center”; a showroom and educational facility for teaching and introducing personal computers to employees bank wide. A proud New York native, she later pursued a Master’s degree at Mt. St. Mary’s College in Newburg, NY, in early childhood and special education, maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Allison moved to CT in 2003 and currently resides in Stonington Borough. She has 4 children who are mostly grown and currently reside in Austin, Texas. Hughes recently joined the Board of Sails Up 4 Cancer after having lost her father to this terrible disease two years ago on the 4th of July.
Karen was born and raised in Charleston, WV. After graduating high school Karen studied business administration at Morris Harvey College in Charleston, and has worked as an administrator for various types of organizations since that time.
She lived in Japan for five years where she was employed by the department of the Navy in a social services position and later in an administrative capacity by the Navy’s real estate contracts division. In 1990 she left Japan and moved to Rhode Island, where she met Bob and they were married in 1991.
She has held a Connecticut real estate license since 1995,and for the past 14 years has worked in the field of property management in Connecticut.
She enjoys cruising Long Island Sound with her husband, Bob, the founder and CEO of SU4C. She has supported Bob during his fundraising activities and chairman positions with the CT chapter of the Leukeimia Society. More importantly she has been his advocate and administrator during his struggles with two cancers, as well as with her younger brother, Walter, who lost his battle with brain cancer in march of 2010.
She is a member of Mystic Fleet Corinthians, Mystic Mudheads, and Mystic River Yacht Club.
Dr. Jamie Lee
Dr. Jamie Lee is a DNM and IMD a complementary practitioner focusing on overall health and well-being, which includes mind, body and spirit. After already receiving her Bachelors from University of LaVerne and Masters in Science from RPI, she decided it was time to get a degree from University of Natural Medicine so she could further help people through service and education.
Board Certified as a Consultant of Natural Medicine with the American Council of Holistic Medicine. Jamie is also a Reiki Master Teacher, Certified Raindrop Therapist, Certified Iridologist, Spiritual Counselor, Certified in Flower Essences as well as Ilahinoor Practitioner, Deeksha Blesser, and Ordained Minister.
Jamie’s goal is to help raise awareness of natural health and healing through education and service.
Rob Acquaro is honored to be a new member of the SU4C Board. He is a native of the Jersey Shore, and settled in this area in 1984 as a Reactor Operator on the submarine U.S.S. Providence. After leaving the Navy in 1987, Rob went to work at Millstone Power Station, and has been there ever since. He earned a Senior Reactor Operator license from the NRC, and has held numerous positions, including Operator Instructor and Operations Shift Manager. Rob is an avid sailor. He was introduced to the life in 1997 when he crewed on a trip from Miami to the Bahamas. Cruising and racing have been his passion ever since. He has been an active member of the Mystic River Mudheads since 2003. Rob is looking forward to serving the SU4C cause.
Shannon Cavanaugh brings over 30 years of business experience to our team. Coming from 15 years with an international franchise organization, Shannon brings a vast array of business experience with her including; project management, sales development, marketing, event planning, strategic planning and graphic design.
For over 25 years, Shannon has been running teams and projects from start to completion, working with clients, vendors, franchisees and executives.
Shannon has recently relocated from Dallas, TX but is a longtime visitor to Mystic. She loves cruising on her brother’s boat “Crystal Slipper” and hanging out with sailors. She also switched over from being a Dallas Cowboys fan to being a Patriots fan as soon as she moved here.
Joanie Joplin joined us last year and is now a member of the board for SU4C. She is a retired school principal with 32 years of experience in Connecticut Public Education. As a teacher and administrator, Joanie advocated for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. She volunteered with various organizations to ensure children and families were given proper nutritional and medical services and worked with local Women’s shelters as well as Connecticut Big Brothers Big Sisters. She also worked to improve educational programs for children with disabilities, helping parents to better understand their rights in the public school system. Joanie brings a vast array of administrative experience to the SU4C team. She is a leader in collaborative decision making with a vision to refine projects and enhance the development of programs to ensure success. She joins as she has felt the devastating loss of her father to cancer 25 years ago, and the loss of her mother, who died five months before him, most likely of a broken heart. She is committed to helping to raise money for cancer research and to help families in need as they combat the disease with their loved ones.
Annie Longo is a graduating senior at the University of Connecticut studying Environmental Studies and Political Science. She is on the UConn Sailing Team and the MudRatz Youth Offshore Sailing Team. In 2018, Annie was part of the Dreamcatcher team that won the Newport to Bermuda Race and placed second in the 2019 Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race. She is also one of the founding members of the MudRatz’ GreenFlash Team, a group who aims to educate the ECSA about sustainability in the sport of sailing.
She started sailing at a young age at Mason’s Island Yacht Club and then went on to compete with the Williams School Sailing Team. Summer 2020 will be her seventh season coaching sailing in the ECSA. She is currently the Head Instructor of the Ram Island Yacht Club junior sailing program.
Annie is an active member of the Mystic River Mudheads and is really looking forward to working for the SU4C cause, as it’s one of her favorites!
Deborah Newberry has lived in Southeastern CT for over 30 years. She is currently a clinical research professional working in oncology. Deborah Newberry has volunteered with Sails Up 4 Cancer for past three years and has personally witnessed the incredible team and the work that Sails Up 4 Cancer does. Being elected to the Board of Directors will provide Deborah Newberry a more significant opportunity to support the fight against cancer and give back to the community.
Dr. Catherine O’Brien
Dr. Catherine O’Brien comes to us with experience as a Board Member, an Administrator and Direct Service Provider. Her past experience on the Mystic River Yacht Club and present experience as President of The Children’s Museum of Southeastern CT makes her a valuable addition to our Board for Sails Up for Cancer. She has worked to support sustainable systems across settings in ways that promote collaboration, partnership with attention to advancing the vision of the organization. Her passion is serving as an advocate for awareness and support of young children and their families’ that are in need of “a little help” from those that can.
Holly Phelps Miller
Holly is a true veteran of the local sailing scene. Her father was the Commodore of the Watch Hill Yacht Club and was a main principal in the creation of the Watch Hill 15 one design fleet. She has crewed in many regattas and sailed the waters of New England most of her life.
Holly’s passion for cooking and event planning has developed into her becoming an amateur caterer. She has planned and catered many events at most of the local Yacht Clubs. Holly’s unique skill set for decorating, planning a menu, and organizing logistics makes her a perfect fit as Event Coordinator for Sails Up 4 Cancer.
Caitlin Wheeler is a local mom & business woman. She lives in Mystic, CT with her two children. During the day she runs her profitable business, Caitlin Wheeler Enterprises, where she is very passionate about providing her clients and customers with affordable solutions that allow them to streamline their households and businesses. She attended University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth where she studied Economics as well as Goodwin College where she studied under the Bachelor of Nursing program. Caitlin’s passions include raising her children and making a noticeable impact on her community. She is specifically excited about using her marketing and public relations expertise to educate the community on how their generous cash donations allow Sails Up 4 Cancer to provide desperately needed financial support to our community members impacted by a cancer diagnosis. These are often children, parents and grandparents who are working through their recovery so they can focus on treatments and healing to move on with their lives.