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Prime Time: Painting the town pink

It was May 7, 2011, and Billie Bauer headed down to the Twin Cities. She is a seven-year cancer survivor, so she and her daughter Rose planned to participate in the annual Mother's Day race for the cure for breast cancer. Billie has attended this special event for the last four years and this year would be no different.

On Sunday morning, Billie and Rose were among the 45,000 participants who showed up at the Mall of America to take a stand against breast cancer. They paid their $25 registration fee, put on their walking shoes and were "off to the races."

The throngs of survivors and supporters walked from early Sunday morning until about noon. Walkers could choose to walk outside or inside the mall, and all along the way there were booths and concessions that offered a variety of interesting free gifts to the walkers.

The drawing

Speaking of gifts and prizes, a most interesting attraction was a big tent. Tables were set up under the tent and a variety of boxes sat on top of the tables. Each box had a label explaining the prize within the box. There were gift certificates for everything, trips to beauty salons and spas and all kinds of other neat prizes.

Now according to Billie, each survivor had a chance to win one of these prizes. They had all morning to check out the boxes. By noon, they would need to make a choice and deposit their name in one of the many boxes.

Billie took one look at all those boxes. She thought about the 3,400 survivors who would be milling around trying to select just the right box with just the right prize in it and decided then and there that she was not up for all that confusion. So what did she do? She deposited her name in the nearest box. The box was labeled "Paint the Town Pink." She had no idea what that meant.

And the winner is ...

Billie and Rose crossed the finish line just before noon. The magic moment had arrived. It was time for the drawing and the suspense that went with it. Everyone anxiously waited for the names of the lucky winners to be announced. Rose went to an upper balcony so she could get some better photos. Billie stayed put. She would wait it out with all the other "wannabe winners." She had never won much of anything in her life and had little hope of being a winner that day, but then you just never know. Anyway she would be a good sport and be happy for those survivors who would get lucky that day.

Suddenly, Billie heard a lady call her name. She couldn't believe her ears. She was a winner! She let out an "Ooh" and jumped up and down. The people around her were so happy and excited for her, they whooped and cheered too.

When everyone settled down, a nice lady gave Billie a pretty little purse and told her that the sponsor of the prize would be contacting her personally to explain the details about the prize. More suspense!

The end of a perfect day

After all the excitement of the morning, it was on to the Olive Garden where Billie would enjoy a Mother's Day dinner with her family. Then it was goodbye to the big city and back home to Bemidji. The excitement of this big weekend was over.

Or was it??

Billie had been home just a short time when the phone rang. The caller asked to speak to Billie Bauer.

"Hello, Billie, this is Dr. Harold Londer," he said. "I am an oncologist at North Memorial Hospital, and I am the sponsor of your Paint the Town Pink prize."

He told her to start making plans for her and a friend to spend "a night on the town."

"Everything will be included: dinner, entertainment, hotel accommodations and breakfast," he continued.

He wound up the conversation by saying, "When you have decided what you want to do and when you want to do it, just let me know and I will make all the arrangements."

Does it get any better than that?

The rest of the story

Billie began making plans. Choosing a guest was easy. Since her daughter Rose had paid the registration fee for Billie to do the race for the last four years, she was the logical choice.

And what show would she like to see? That was a no-brainer. André Rieu is her most favorite performer of all times. But would he be performing in the area anytime soon or if at all?

Talk about a stroke of luck! It turns out he would be doing a single performance at the Xcel Energy Center on Sept. 16. It was now May. Waiting to see Andre' in the fall was no problem.

And where to stay? The elegant old St Paul Hotel, of course, which was within walking distance of the Xcel Energy Center. The plans were made. Rose connected with Dr. Londer and he took care of all the details.

Summer came and went. When Oct. 16 rolled around, Billie and Rose were ready for their big night on the town. At about 4 p.m., they arrived at the fashionable St. Paul Hotel where they would spend the night. They donned their theater clothes and headed down to the dining room where they would enjoy a leisurely glass of wine followed by a delicious dinner. And then it was show time.

It was a beautiful fall evening, so these two elegant ladies strolled over to the Xcel Energy Center on foot. They were in for an unforgettable evening of entertainment. The doctor had ordered the best seats in the house for them, and to top it all off, André's performance exceeded Billie's every expectation.

When all the clapping and the last encore ended, the ladies sauntered back to the hotel. They found some comfortable easy chairs in the hotel lounge, ordered a couple glasses of wine and reflected on all that had happened. Then it was off to bed.

The next morning they were served an extravagant breakfast and then said goodbye to this grand old hotel. For Billie and her daughter, their "Paint the Town Pink" adventure was over. Thanks to one kind and generous physician, two ladies had one fabulous weekend they would never forget.

Rose wrote a note to Dr. Londer to thank him for the wonderful week end and of course Billie did the same. The doctor e-mailed Rose, "Thank your Mom for the very nice note she sent me. Tell her to say hello to me next year at the survivor tent at the race."

Don't you just love stories like this?

By the way ...

Billie was not only a big winner in May. In June she won a prize at the Relay for Life event. Someone donated a nice wooden picnic table for the drawing. All the survivors were encouraged to sign their names on the top of it. Little did Billie know that when she signed her name that she would be the lucky winner of this very special picnic table.