On a life-saving mission

June 27th, 2015 1:16 am

First Posted: 5/22/2013

The culmination of a seven month planning process came to life last Saturday as students, supporters and survivors joined together to stomp out cancer one step at a time.

33 teams of over 450 participants took to the track at Pittston Area High School’s Charley Trippi Stadium in Yatesville to support the fight against cancer in the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life.

An organized, overnight fundraising walk, the Relay for Life has been a staple of the American Cancer Society’s fundraising efforts since the very first team relay raised $33,000 for cancer research in 1986.

Today, the event brings together teams of patients, survivors and supporters to take turns walking around a track. Walkers/runners are asked to have a member of their team on the track at all times as a symbol that cancer never rests.

Event Chair and Pittston Area Senior Anthony Capozucca said that since last year’s event, students haven’t rested either.

“We had seven committee members last year,” Capozucca said. “We had over 40 this year.

“And hopefully with that success, we can make more people aware of the seriousness of cancer and join the battle against it.

“The community and the committee and everyone involved really stepped up,” he said.

But Capozucca is part of a committee unlike most others involved with the Relay.

With the exception of faculty advisor Amanda Karaffa and Lori Anne Fontanella, an income development representative from the American Cancer Society, the event was put on solely by the students.

Beginning in October, the student committee formed and developed “Colors of Cancer” teams, with each team donning a color which represents a type of cancer. Some of nicknames included “Stop the War in My Rack”, “Ovarian-portant Cause” and “Bladder Blasters.”

Additionally, the committee sought out speakers, cancer survivors and sponsorships.

“The thing that is so impressive about this event is the youth,” Fontanella said. “The kids did everything.”

“They went out on their own and raised over $3,000 dollars in sponsorships for the event,” she said.

“It’s just amazing to see high school students supporting it the way they are,” Karaffa said.

Sharing the fight within her own family, Karaffa said cancer is an issue that anyone from any walk of life can relate to.

“No matter where you look, everybody is affected and knows somebody who has or has had cancer,” Karaffa said. “We just want to be able to have a day where we can bring awareness to the fight.”

As of Tuesday, the event had raised $44,153 and counting – easily eclipsing the original goal of $26,000.

Those dollars help to fund cancer research and numerous patient service programs including the American Cancer Society’s “Hope Lodge,” which gives patients and their caregivers a place to stay when their treatments may be in another city.

But that wasn’t the only goal that was eclipsed.

The planning committee ended up with 33 teams, seven more than they hoped. They also were able to arrange to bring four more cancer survivors to the event than originally planned.

His first year participating in the Relay, junior Jonathon Kamor said the response from his fellow students has been unbelievable.

“It seems like it might be a lost cause but when you see all these people – they’re dedicated,” Kamor said. “It’s great to see.”

Asked if he plans to participate against next year, Kamor didn’t hesitate.

“Absolutely,” he said.