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9:11 AM Tue, Sept. 18th

REACHING OUT: Fundraiser for 9/11 survivor with cancer is Saturday

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>Dina Mountcastle sits on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps last year in Prescott.

Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier<br>Dina Mountcastle sits on the Yavapai County Courthouse steps last year in Prescott.

Friends of Dina Mountcastle who deem her an inspiration in their lives, especially as she struggles with cancer, are planning an open house and fundraiser for her and her family this Saturday at American Lutheran Church in Prescott.

In spite of the somber reason, organizers of the benefit want it to be "uplifting and festive," reflecting the meaning of Christmas, Kerry Johnson, an organizer, said. "We aim for it to be joyful."

The "Benefit for Dina" to help raise money for her family's mounting medical bills will be from 1:30 to 4 p.m. The church is located at 1085 Scott Drive. The afternoon will include snacks, hot chocolate, coffee and lemonade for children, a silent auction and live music provided by the Gurley Girls ensemble.

Customarily, the Gurley Girls specialize in vocal harmonies, "folksy, blue grassy sounds," Johnson said. But, on Saturday, the group will be performing Christmas music, and leading guests in sing-alongs and a caroling session.

Bidders in the silent auction will have an array of choices: gym memberships, haircuts and products, a six-week boot camp, manicures, matted pictures, an Oriental rug valued at $3,200, gift baskets, a home inspection and gift certificates for dining at a local restaurant.

"Dina is a very amazing, giving and thoughtful person," said Jill Nicholson, who is arranging the auction. "It's amazing the amount of support she has gotten.

It's heartwarming that the community is coming together for her."

"Even though she has been through things we can never imagine, she has never lost her sense of humor," Johnson said of Mountcastle.

The unimaginable occurred when Mountcastle, a Dewey resident, was emerging from her subway stop near her job in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. When the second plane hit, "it brought me to my knees. I thought somebody was bombing us," she said in a 2011 interview. Hours later, when rubble blocking the exit from her office had been cleared, she walked nearly 50 blocks to her home in Queens. Along the way, the urge to help people so devastated by the terrorist attacks overwhelmed her. "I just wanted to help," she said. And, she did, for a week, working by day for a small insurance brokerage firm and by night, feeding workers from 1 to 4 a.m. as they came off shifts.

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Mountcastle was a featured speaker at Patriot Day, which commemorated the fateful day on the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza.

"I witnessed, first-hand, the acts of humanity that came out of an act of terrorism," Mountcastle told the crowd gathered on the plaza. "What better revenge for such hatred than the compassion shown by New Yorkers and the entire country that day?"

Mountcastle, the mother of two young daughters, was the coordinator of MOPS - Mothers of Preschoolers - at American Lutheran, and this group and other women of the church are spearheading the benefit for Mountcastle, whose breast cancer was first diagnosed in 2009.

Mountcastle has chronicled her experience on her blog, where she describes her ordeal, the many treatments she has endured and "the news we didn't want to hear" that she and her husband, PJ, received on Dec. 3.

"I've been sent home to live out the remainder of my life, with a hospice team... all this chemo, theresphere, quadrasphere - and this is what I get? None of it worked, the cancer kept growing, and here I am.

"I'm not afraid to die... I wish it wasn't now. I want so bad to be a wife to my husband and grow old together. I have soooo much to teach my girls, about being girls and women and wives..."

Yet her sense of humor appears in another post on her blog when she says, "I have to say that I feel very much like the Monty Python skit, 'Bring Out Your Dead,' and I'm the guy slung over the shoulder shouting, 'I'm not dead yet...' On the other hand, as much as that makes me laugh, watching 'It's a Wonderful Life' will mean something much more to me this year, because it is."

People who want to help the Mountcastle family may make donations at the event, online at www.youcaring.com. or send them to American Lutheran Church, 1085 Scott Drive, Prescott, 86301, with checks payable to Debbie Smith and including "DM Fund" in the memo line.