WBCS~25th Anniversary

This month’s feature in the year-long series marking the 25th Anniversary of the founding of WBCS, Inc. is the 2004 Showhouse for a Cure, the seventh annual WBCS Showhouse. The stunning home of Suzanne Spenner-Hupy, Michael Hupy and their children, it provided a magnificent Lake Michigan setting and beautiful architecture to inspire both the 2004 Showhouse designers and the visiting public.

WBCS, Inc., founded as the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse, started in 1998 with a Showhouse and a $42,000 investment in research at the Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center.  Each year, the Showhouse attracted more visitors. Other events were added, allowing the annual investment to grow. In 2002, just four years after that first modest, but significant philanthropic investment, WBCS-funded researchers began to receive additional grants based on the promising results from their WBCS-funded research.

By the end of 2004, additional external research funding had risen to over $4 million. The cumulative direct investment by WBCS at the end of 2004 was $1.742 million.  Both WBCS and successful external funding by WBCS funded researchers would continue to grow through the years, reflecting the community’s generous support of the WBCS focused research mission to defeat breast cancer and prostate cancer, two common cancer diseases.

2004 Showhouse Dedication

The 2004 Showhouse was dedicated to the memory of Hope Zeppos. Hope was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. Her battle ended in 2003.  Family and friends spoke of her generosity, kindness, understanding, graciousness and love.  Remembering Hope and her courageous battle reminds us why, twenty-one years later, WBCS continues to battle for better treatments and ultimately cures.

2004 Showhouse Homeowner & Designers

The second in our year-long series of WBCS Showhouse for a Cure homes was located at 4640 North Lake Drive. It was the seventh WBCS Showhouse, and a great favorite with designers.

Suzanne Spenner-Hupy grew up here, and she and husband Michael and their children made this their family home.  About their decision for their home to become a Showhouse, Suzanne shares that her “mother had had cancer.  As a tribute to her life and her life as a philanthropist, the decision [was] made to contribute to the community.” Suzanne was familiar with the Showhouses. Her mother had volunteered at previous Showhouses, and they regularly visited them together.

Although it was difficult giving up control of the design of her home to the designers, Suzanne says, “it was for a good cause”.  She recalled the most difficult part came in preparation for the designers and, “going down memory lane while removing the family belongings”.

 Marcia Klode (Mille Tesori/Showcase) and Patty Virnig (Ivy Interiors), are two of the over 25 designers who worked on the 2004 Showhouse.  This was Marcia’s first WBCS Showhouse, although she had been involved in multiple Symphony Showhouses.   According to Marcia, she became involved because of the many people she knew who had breast cancer or prostate cancer and “research is the only way to find better treatments and cures.”

Patty was a veteran by 2004, having designed her first space for the 2001 Showhouse.  About the 2001 Showhouse, she recalled that her space was a screened porch where she installed, among other things, a coop—made for her by her brother—for two chickens. The chickens were only allowed to greet guests twice she said. The first time was on opening night and the second on Designer Sunday.

Patty and Marcia agree that one of the best parts of being involved is the connectedness of the designers. Marcia commented she “believes it is very important that the community sees what can happen when creative people band together for a common cause.” She shares that she is constantly surprised and amazed, “by the endless hours all of the volunteers give to the house which allows the designers to do their job. They never stop. I just don’t know how they do it.  There isn’t anything they don’t do to keep the Showhouse and boutique up and running.” 

Marcia was certainly speaking of Patty’s commitment. Patty shares that the first Showhouse she attended was in 2000, and she feels it was karma.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after. That sealed it for her; she has been involved for more than 20 years, is a co-chair of the Design Review Committee, worked as a designer in 19 Showhouses and continues to serve on the WBCS board. Patty modeled in the WBCS Pinktacular Luncheon and Fashion Show with her mother, who was also a breast cancer survivor.

Marcia’s comments about the connectedness is echoed by Patty, who feels that after all of her years of involvement, it is all about those connections. 

But, how does the annual Showhouse come together?  How does this cohesiveness happen with so many designers? Marcia feels it is the influence of the Design Review Committee. The committee doesn’t guide as much as provide a process or a filter that helps the designers. Patty thinks it is the influence of the home. Designers experience the home in similar ways, “maybe an architectural feature or a color and that seems to be a major influence.”  Perhaps they are both right.

Each designer works differently. When asked how long it takes to design a room, Marcia says, “After I have a concept, it takes about a week to select fabrics and furniture and confirm that I can get them.”

Of course, that doesn’t include installation time or the occasional instance when something is no longer available. Patty shared, “It’s different now as design chair, since often I don’t know which room I will end up with until later. When I finally know, it can take several months. If I get inspired, then it goes pretty quickly.” 

About budget, for independent designers like Patty, budget can be a constraint. That’s when connections come into play, by reaching out to suppliers, friends and other designers for support. Marcia is also an independent designer. However, she has the advantage of having a retail business that can provide furniture and accessories. Marcia is also known to be very generous, sharing furniture and accessories with other designers for their Showhouse rooms.  

Marcia says her favorite room of all the Showhouses was the sitting room in the 2004 home. Her inspiration was a blue and white Scalamandre design, which she used on walls and window treatments, pairing it with white upholstered loveseats and chairs. The room had a view of Lake Michigan which completed the transformation.

Homeowner Suzanne Hupy agreed this was also her favorite room, “…a back guest bedroom, done to the nines.  Each day the designer freshened up the room with edibles and fresh flowers. She placed a tiny owl statue on a table, mimicking the beautifully carved limestone owl on the exterior of the home.”

Patty’s favorite room was not in the 2004 home. It was a little girl’s room where she used a Teddy Bear Picnic fabric throughout the bedroom.  It was a pretty fabric and very happy.  She adds that her mom helped her with this room–they were both very hands-on.

Speaking of their memories about the Showhouses, both Marcia and Patty mentioned that the best memories revolve around people. Working with family members, solving unexpected problems with help from other designers and volunteers, are the strongest memories. As Marcia says, “You never have the sense that you are alone.” 

For Suzanne and Michael, their “most memorable moment was when the check for breast [cancer] and prostate cancer research was presented to the Medical College of Wisconsin. It was a wonderful feeling to do good for others.” Asked about others offering their home, Suzanne replied, “I don’t think it is for everyone. Knowing we raised the amount we did; I wouldn’t change my decision to participate.”  

They continue to be involved with WBCS, attending the Showhouses and supporting other WBCS events through Hupy & Abraham, S.C. sponsorships. 

Showhouses are the result of the commitment and dedication of the designers, homeowners and volunteers. We hope you enjoyed this look back and are inspired. 


If you are interested in offering your home as a future WBCS Showhouse, please send an email to WBCS@breastcancershowhouse.org.