South Charlotte

Opening their purses for a cause

A garage full of purses sounds like a dream come true for most women. For Kelly DeMario, having piles and piles - more than 2,500 handbags - in her home is a typical April.

DeMario is now in her third year of raising funds for the American Cancer Society of Charlotte with her annual Purses with a Purpose sale, to be held May 7.

DeMario also belongs to The Land of Misfit Toys, a team that participates in the American Cancer Society of Charlotte's annual Relay for Life walk, which this year will be held May 13-14 at Alexander Graham Middle School.

"We wanted an out-the-box type fundraiser to be a part of," said DeMario of the team and its desire to do more. "I wanted something girlie, something fun," said DeMario.

Purses with a Purpose held its first sale in DeMario's front yard, with 500 purses for sale, and raised more than $1,000.

DeMario, 33; her husband, John, 32; and several friends and volunteers have spent their spare time in the last several weeks picking up garbage bags full of donated gently used or new purses from residents and businesses and tagging the merchandise for sale in the DeMarios' Matthews home.

"John and I gladly spend our weekends picking up purses," said DeMario.

The DeMarios and their Relay for Life teammates are making a difference in the lives of cancer survivors and their loved ones with their dedication to both the Purses with a Purpose sale and the walk the following weekend.

Cancer also has made a difference in the DeMarios' lives: John DeMario's father died when John was 6 years old, due to complications from testicular cancer.

This year's sale will be at The Blake Hotel uptown from 8 a.m.-noon May 7, as the popularity of donating and attending the event has grown to exceed the DeMarios' expectations and their front yard. Bags range in price from $1 to $65, from everyday small handbags to Coach originals.

"I'm hoping this is a good PR statement for everyone; good old middle-class people that put their brains together to start something from the ground up, something from nothing, and ended up raising thousands," said Kelly DeMario.