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Nov 27, 2012

Looking back at the late Karen Skeen, cancer activist

Karen Skeen Vellos

Karen Skeen, her husband Robert Vellos and daughter Teena were savagely executed before the break of dawn as they slept at their Ladyville house on Sunday morning. The heinous murder has stunned the entire community; not only because of its gravity but because the suspect is Karen’s son.  Karen is a well-known figure who for years has been in the front lines advocating against Cancer.  Karen became an activist for the cause when her sister died due to cancer complications and over the years we have featured Karen in a number of stories advancing awareness about the disease. Tonight we re-visit one such story that we aired in 2005. Reporting then was Daedra Haylock.


Daedra Haylock, Reporting    File: October 6th, 2005
Three years ago when Judith Skeen died, the family was faced with the grief of having lost a loved one to breast cancer.


Karen Skeen Vellos, Waltz Contest Organiser
“In 1991, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in New York and about seven years later the cancer spread. Judith was always a playful person, always made joke off someone so that everyone can have a good laugh. It was very painful for all of us. Even though we were there with her all the time, she would visit Belize a lot, every year she would make an effort to come back to Belize.

And so you miss her presence and her jokes.”


Today, the Skeen family has taken that pain and sadness and turned it into something positive. Following in her sister’s footsteps, Karen Skeen Vellos has dedicated time and energy fundraising for the Belize Cancer Society ? all dedicated to her sister’s memory.


Karen Skeen Vellos
“She helped to organise fundraising in New York and also she sent booklets and different things to the Belize Cancer Society by the barrels. And in so doing, she just encouraged our family to get involved also.”


Building on Judith’s benevolence, Karen has hosted tea parties and turkey dinners all to assist the Cancer Society. Each time, the goal is to involve more people and raise more money. Today, she is in the midst of organising her most ambitious event ever – a dinner, dance, and waltz competition.


Karen Skeen Vellos
“We want to help other people. My sister didn?t need any financial help from us; everything was done for her in the States. And I know Belizeans don’t have the money and we don’t have the doctors, the facilities down here in Belize, so we know other people have to go abroad for consultations or to do chemotherapy. And I think it is very important for people to get the medication needed, because cancer is very painful in the last stages.”


Daedra Haylock
“The activity will be held right here in the Ladyville Community Centre. And while right now the place is a bare concrete squared room, with only one couple on the dance floor, organisers say it will be transformed into all the glitz and glamour for the event on October fifteenth.”


It may be Skeen’s brainchild, but the family has teamed with Chris and Karen Chaleki utilising the couple’s combined sixteen years of dancing experience to get the event going.


Karen Chaleki, Dance Instructor
“We love being involved in anything that has anything to do with dance or that is getting people together to have a good time for a worthy cause. We have done this many, many times.”


“Number one essentials, the couples to compete. Number two, we will have some really good music. We have some judges; two of the judges have competed, so they do know what they are looking for. The real essential is to have an open mind. Belizean people haven’t seen a waltz competition at the level that we are putting on. We hope they come and they look at it with an open mind and say, wow that is different.”


Despite my own obvious difficulty with mastering the waltz, Chaleki believes that there is no shortage of competitive dancers in Belize.


Eight couples are expected to compete and the invitation is now going out for you to come and support them in aid of the Cancer Society. Wayne Usher, a member of the society for the past six years, welcomes the Skeen family effort.


Wayne Usher, Board Member, Belize Cancer Society
“We are very receptive to that type of initiative and we would want to encourage other people who feel strongly in support of what we are doing, to do that type of contribution.”


Private efforts like these go a long way towards the long-term goal of establishing a hospice centre to serve the entire nation. Daedra Haylock Reporting for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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4 Responses for “Looking back at the late Karen Skeen, cancer activist”

  1. Storm says:

    Her death was an especially great loss because of her good work against cancer. I hope someone comes along to take up her torch and carry on with the same passion and commitment.

  2. belizean says:

    This story is very sad

  3. Bmp says:

    This is what hurts the most!

    She was a very good productive person in society, helping so may others!

    Then u watch some lazy foolish criminals out here like “robbery” that just cant seem to die

  4. sher says:

    this is very sad thats all i can say. i could not imagine the hurt that was cause to this family

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