Angel Volunteers Help Patients with “Heavenly” Show

The spotlight will soon be on Winchester Hospital’s Winton Club members as they stage their 99th annual Cabaret on January 29.

“It’s a huge endeavor,” said Cathy Wrotny, a 21-year club member and the show’s producer. But the Cabaret isn’t this longtime volunteer group’s 15 minutes of fame. It’s how they give back to Winchester Hospital and the community.

When you step into Winchester Hospital, one of the first things you see are smiling faces wearing yellow jackets in the gift shop. “These women put so many hours in,” said Margaret Bertochi, the club’s president. The Winton Club, the cabaret and their gift shop are run entirely by volunteers.

Weeks of rehearsals, scenery design and set building go into the popular show at Winchester Town Hall. “I call the Cabaret a miracle, because it comes together in three weeks,” Cathy said. “People have to be in there, learning the steps quickly.”

Added Margaret: “They have a lot of fun. It is very much like a reunion. Everyone knows January is Winton time.”

The theme in 2019 is “Heavenly.” “I’ve always just loved the interaction of the skies with nature,” Cathy explained. “It will have songs about sunrises and moons, and maybe a little frog or two. Just celebrating the beauty of the nature of the world.”

A hand for Winchester Hospital

Since its inception in 1911, the Winton Club has raised more than $3 million for Winchester Hospital. This year, the club aims to raise $100,000. Proceeds from the show and the gift shop in 2019 will help pay for six new ceiling lifts in patient rooms. This equipment makes it easier to move patients who can’t get out of bed on their own, while making the process safer for both patients and employees.

The club is also raising money for a new telemetry monitor in the surgical suite, so nurses can monitor multiple patients from the main desk.

Their other cause is A Caring Place, a resource at Winchester’s Cancer Care Center that helps cancer patients get services and products insurance won’t pay for, such as wigs and prosthetics. “We’ve gotten many thank you notes from women because of that,” said Cathy.

A labor of love

Before the curtain rises and the Winton women sing and dance for a cause, their significant others are hard at work every weekend in January at Winchester Town Hall, building sets.

“We couldn’t put this show on without the support from our husbands or male partners,” Margaret said. “They do it because it benefits Winchester Hospital, they enjoy the camaraderie and it’s part of the community.”

The men don’t stay behind-the-scenes, however. “The stage crew number is a fun number,” Cathy explained. She wouldn’t say what they’re planning, but she admits the laughs will be worth the ticket price. “They’re making fun of themselves, but having a good time.”

While the performers on stage will be all smiles, the loss of 54-year member Ann Bannister will be front and center for many. She started a group called “The Tambos,” who perform a tambourine number in the Cabaret every year. “Many times, people come just to see them,” said Cathy.

Bannister passed away in July of 2018. After her death, club members found a photo of her performing the song, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” in the 1980s. The Tambos will perform that same song in “Heavenly” in her honor.

Taking pride in Winchester Hospital

A huge honor for Winchester Hospital in 2018 was its fourth designation as a Magnet Status hospital. Only 7 percent of hospitals in the U.S. have received this award for excellence in nursing. This year’s Cabaret will celebrate that excellence.

“I’m dedicating the show to the staff of the hospital this year, from doctors to the bus drivers, the whole gamut of the employees of Winchester Hospital,” Wrotny said. “I’ve seen such wonderful, caring, amazing acts of kindness and creativity. I wanted to share that the hospital is just magnificent. It’s a community gem.”