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Kathryn Brunner’s love of theater started early in life, as she participated in school and community theater productions in her hometown just outside of Philadelphia. Her father, Glen Brunner, fostered her passion of performing art from the beginning, driving her to rehearsals, braiding her hair for performances, and always supporting her with his enthusiasm. During Glen’s difficult journey with cancer, he continued to provide his family and friends with the same positivity that they knew and loved.
In 2009, Glen began experiencing pain and discomfort in his upper abdomen and knew something was wrong. He sought medical attention from several providers across the region, but received the same response over and over—everything seemed fine. But Glen was always one to trust his gut. He finally landed at Fox Chase Cancer Center, where doctors quickly identified a tumor on his kidney. He began treatment for his cancer, fighting each day with his optimism despite his prognosis.
Unfortunately, Glen lost his battle with cancer in 2010. Still, his family remains grateful for the compassionate and comprehensive care he received at Fox Chase. Kathryn recalls, “Every single nurse or doctor we ever spoke to was so kind.”
“Of course you never want to have to go to a cancer hospital, but if you do, you want to feel like the people treating you actually know and care about you and your family,” shared Kathryn, “and we felt like Fox Chase saw my dad, and us, like people—not just a number.”
After graduating from Temple University, Kathryn pursued an acting career and moved to New York City*. She knew her father would be proud that she was chasing her dream. Remembering how much he loved watching her perform, Kathryn considered how she could honor her father’s memory. She created “Positive Glenergy,” a cabaret in NYC, featuring musical performances by talented friends from her theater community. The meaningful name of the event derived from a nickname from Glen’s college friend as well as the essence that he would want the event to represent. The artists were asked to choose songs the Glen had loved during his life, or songs that reminded people of him. Kathryn would also perform, as well as speak to the audience about her father. Throughout the program, other family and friends, including Kathryn’s mother, would also get up to talk about Glen and his upbeat, inspirational spirit. At the end of the night, the ensemble of performers joined together on stage for an 80’s themed finale because, as Kathryn shared, “my dad loved the 80’s.”
In addition to the entertainment, attendees bid on raffles and other prizes to raise money for Fox Chase Cancer Center. Although the event is only approaching its third year, Kathryn hopes it continues to grow. She knows her dad would appreciate the event for the same reason she does—all of the love in the room. What makes it even more meaningful is that the Brunner family can make an impact on future patients and their loved ones by donating their proceeds to the Support Our Strength Fund at Fox Chase, which benefits the areas of greatest need at the Center. At each show, Kathryn knows her father is somewhere in the audience cheering her on.
*Although a New York resident, Kathryn recently finished a successful run starring as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical at Philadelphia’s own Walnut Street Theatre.