A Christmas Tree for Cheryl Blackman - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

A Christmas Tree for Cheryl Blackman

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Cheryl with her sign Cheryl with her sign
Cheryl's Tree in the Parade of Trees Cheryl's Tree in the Parade of Trees

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Anyone who's familiar with the Rehoboth Boardwalk is familiar with Cheryl Blackman.

Famous for her hugs and positive attitude, she's become a Rehoboth icon. She's raised money for local organizations by selling raffle tickets, and even spent some time in the movies, when she played Miss Piggy's stunt double in "The Muppets Take Manhattan." 

"It's not Rehoboth if you don't see her out and about," says Mali Belcamino, who works at Grotto Pizza on Rehoboth Avenue. 

Belcamino and some of her coworkers decided to sponsor a tree for Blackman in the company's annual Parade of Trees, where companies decorate Christmas trees for local charities, that are on display in the restaurant. Customers can "vote" on the trees with monetary donations to the tree's charity of choice. The Parade of Trees runs until January 1st, and the tree that collects the most donations wins an extra $250 for their charity from Grotto themselves.

"She was a big part of the Grotto family for a while, so we wanted to do something for her around Christmas," said Belcamino. "It's her favorite holiday."

Blackman used to work at Grotto as well. Now, she's battling stage four breast cancer. Her tree's donations will go to Delaware Hospice, the organization taking care of her during her cancer fight. The funds will benefit everyone that receives services from this organization.

Her sister, Sharon Sherwood, says the tree is an honor for their family.

"It's a way for the community to say thank you to Delaware Hospice," she says. "But it's also, I know, a way for people to still connect to Cheryl and for Cheryl to know that everybody is out there."

Blackman's tree is decorated with photos from her life, including one with Vice President Biden and some in her festive costumes. She was there as her family put the tree together.

"I'm happy," she said with a beaming smile. "I really, really like it a lot."

Blackman's sister Valerie Cordrey says the community support has kept her sister's spirits high despite her health.

"The love from the community is what's sustaining Cheryl," she says. "The prayers and the love...I just see the wonder that is has accomplished." 

In July, when Blackman was moved to hospice, people in Rehoboth Beach sent her hundreds of cards and even held a parade for her. She will be the honorary grand marshal in the City of Rehoboth Beach's Christmas parade, on December 6th.

Cordrey says she's blown away by the support, but locals tell her it's nothing compared to what her sister has given them. In 2012, Blackman won a Jefferson Award for her volunteer service for the community.

"We were walking down the street and every two steps she would get a hug," Cordrey recalled. "I said, 'Look at all the hugs you're getting.' And one of the guys said, 'That's nothing to the hugs that she's given.'" 

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