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Awards tie together 'Exceptional' stories

'Exceptional Women' co-host Gay Vernon (right) with sports journalist Lesley Visser, one of this year's honorees. "Exceptional Women" co-host Gay Vernon (right) with sports journalist Lesley Visser, one of this year's honorees.

This year's "Exceptional Women" awards look both ways. Traditionally, the annual luncheon ceremony, to be held tomorrow at the Westin Copley Place , focuses on the future, honoring role models who can inspire young women. But as the 10th awards are celebrated, the luncheon, the culmination of a year's worth of Sunday morning 7:30 a.m. "Exceptional Women" programs on WMJX-FM (106.7), is also reviewing the program's history.

It's a past hosts Candy O'Terry and Gay Vernon can be proud of -- the hourlong show has won numerous awards, including 11 prestigious Gracie Allen Awards from the American Women in Radio and Television association. But more important, say the hosts, are the long-term person-to-person effects.

For one example, says O'Terry, who created the program in 1992, look back at the 2004 awards. That year, one of the honorees was Dr. Madeline Crivello , who talked about living with cancer. In the audience was 38-year-old Dr. Julie Silver , who was undergoing treatment for cancer herself.

O'Terry remembers Silver, "no hair on her head, a turban on. She's sitting there, tears falling down her face, and that day Madeline Crivello became her hero." This year, Dr. Silver is accepting an award for her work in health care. Following her treatment, she went on to write "After Cancer Treatment: Heal Faster, Better, Stronger" and created a program for specialized rehabilitation and treatment at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital's Framingham Outpatient Center.

"Both women will be in the same room and it will be a thrilling moment," says Vernon.

Honoree Lesley Visser , a groundbreaking sports journalist, also brings perspective on the past. "This job did not exist for women when I started," says Visser, who has covered the Final Four, Super Bowl, Olympics, and World Series, and became the first woman recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

These days, she says, she hopes to show young women that "no matter what it is that you think or dream that you might want to do, I'm an example that you can do it. "

She'll be joined at the luncheon by honorees Roberta MacDonald , the senior vice president of Cabot Creamery , who took the Vermont business international; Rosalie Gerut , the daughter of Holocaust survivors and the creator of One by One, a nonprofit social justice organization; Mary Richardson , co-host of WCVB-TV's "Chronicle" ; and Raisa Carrasco-Velez , an immigrant from the Dominican Republic whose Project Advance helps teens through the Lawrence Boys and Girls Clubs. Tickets for the luncheon, which benefits American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer , may be purchased online at magic

"There aren't a lot of places for women doing radio," says Visser, noting her appreciation for the award -- and the program behind it. "I'm all over this country, all the time, and you don't often turn on the radio and hear women's voices. That's not to be taken for granted."

Spinning the dial
WUMB-FM (91.9) was not given the Crystal Radio Award at the recent National Association of Broadcasters convention. But the UMass-Boston folk station is honored to be one of 50 finalists, and the only one in Massachusetts. Being named a finalist is "an honor and validation by the NAB for the hard work and dedication of our staff, the community with whom we partner, and our listeners and donors," Patricia Monteith , WUMB general manager , said in a statement.