PITTSTON — In 2014, Barb Sciandra and Qiana Lehman, Esq. organized the first-ever Paint Pittston Pink event.
Five years later, the event has grown bigger and better than either of those women could have imagined.
“It’s kind of amazing,” said Lehman. “I think when we started the idea, we thought it’d be something we could continue to do and we needed to continue to do because it was important to fund this type of research. So, it wasn’t like we thought it would be a one-time thing but, at the same time, you’re not prepared that it’s actually going to keep going.”
Paint Pittston Pink started as a three-day event before consuming an entire week in 2015.
When she was pregnant with her youngest child Cameron, Sciandra discovered a lump on her left breast. From that point, she was persistent and aggressive with ultrasounds, biopsies, mammograms and MRIs.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer on Aug. 17, 2012, stage III in her left breast and stage II in her right. Sciandra was 34 years old and had HER2+, an extremely aggressive type of cancer with a high recurrence rate.
She underwent her first surgery in February, 2013, and is now six years cancer free.
Having fought the disease and seeing what it can do to a person, Sciandra knew she wanted to take up an initiative to help fund research for breast cancer.
“(My husband) Sal and I didn’t like where a lot of the funding was going and a large fundraiser was done for our family by Liberty Tax and our intention was never to keep the money,” Sciandra said. “We said the money would be donated; we just didn’t know where. We spent a lot of time researching different organizations and we decided that we wanted to start our own thing so we could control where the money was going.”
Each year, Paint Pittston Pink events have raised more money than the previous year. The first year raised $30,000; the second raised $50,000; the third year raised $75,000; and last year, $85,000 was raised.
Sciandra and Lehman said they want to raise $100,000 and that will continue to be the yearly goal until it’s achieved.
All money raised from the event goes to the Pennies in Action Fund at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.
New, and somewhat new, events
Paint Pittston Pink 2018 starts off with a brand new event called Rockin’ Roast — A 5 Year Celebration which features some of Greater Pittston’s biggest names being roasted by friends, family members and co-workers.
The honorees are Ed Ackerman, Pittston City Mayor Michael Lombardo, Lazy-E from 97.9X, Prospector from ROCK 107, Dave Fusco and Sen. John Yudichak. This event will be held Saturday, Sept. 22 at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre and doors open at 5:30 p.m.
“We really do try to re-invent ourselves every year,” Sciandra said. “We have our staple events, but we try to come up with at least one different idea every year just so it’s not getting stale.”
Emcees for the event are Lori Nocito, Rabbi Larry Kaplan, Fr. James Paisley and Jarrett Ferentino, Esq.
Music will be provided by HOOPLA! and there will be a performance by the Scranton Civic Ballet.
Tickets are $50 per person and may be purchased via Ticketmaster or by contacting the Kirby Center Box Office at 570-826-1100.
Returning events include the Second Annual Purse Bingo from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 30 at St. Maria Goretti in Laflin.
Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
The day before the Purse Bingo, on Sept. 29, is the Give a Pint, Get a Pint Blood Drive held in memory of the late Greg Policare, a former Pittston City police chief, and Atty. Brian Musto.
“The company that does the bone marrow swabs is a Geisinger-based blood bank so all of the blood that’s donated stays local,” Sciandra said. “But, they said that (last year) was the biggest turnout they ever had for a blood drive. So, that makes us really happy.”
Give A Pint, Get A Pint will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 at Susquehanna Brewing Company.
One last new event, which will be held after the Paint Pittston Pink events, is a cornhole tournament to be held Saturday, Oct. 20 at Susquehanna Brewing Company at a time to be determined.
“We tried to get the cornhole tournament on the day of the blood drive since the blood drive is at SBC and they weren’t able to accommodate,” Sciandra said. “They said there was already a cornhole tournament taking place, so Julie (Murphy) contacted them and they were nice enough to add us in.”
Cost to participate in the cornhole tournament is $50 per team.
Paint the Night Pink
One of the staple events for Paint Pittston Pink is the Paint the Night Pink from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 at Riverfront Park in Pittston.
This event features participants gathering to light and release lanterns into the night sky to remember those who are, or once were, fighting cancer.
“I think we were looking to do an ‘in memoriam’ or upbeat but still poignant event and the lantern launch just happened,” Lehman said. “I think we were talking about them one day and said that we could do them pink and we could do them over the river. This was an image in our mind and it just worked really well.”
During this event, awards will be given out, including The Unsung Hero Award, The Celebration of Life, The Award for Courage, The Survivor Award and The Spirit of Community Award.
Celebrity Bartending Night
One of the biggest events is the Paint The Red Mill PINK! Celebrity Bartending Night at 7 p.m Friday, Oct. 5 at the Red Mill Tavern in Pittston.
“We wanted to have something for people to do the night before the race, and we thought we’d have a celebrity bartending event and we asked people we know to support who’d bring all of their friends,” Lehman said. “I think we wanted a place to go before the race and get everybody riled up.”
Bartenders this year are Dr. Nicole Balchune, Dr. Anthony Bruno, Dr. Shawn Casey, Dr. John Farrell, Dr. Tim Farrell, Lisa Joyce, Dr. Jeff Kile, Abbe Kruger and Jenn Lombardo.
Bouncers are Sammy Agolino, Rick Joseph, John Joyce, Joe Marranca, Chris Martin and A.J. Sanguedolce.
Color Me Pink 5K Family Fun Walk
The Color Me Pink 5K will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 following by the Caped CURE-Sader Family Fun Walk.
With so many races in Greater Pittston, Sciandra took notice of how they bring the community together for a common cause which fit the bill perfectly for Paint Pittston Pink.
“Part of our mission is to bring the community together,” she said. “Our mission is to bring the community together to support a cure for all cancers through research and clinical trials. It was just a great way to bring people together, and adding the pink powder is kind of what separates us from other races.”
The main event takes place immediately after the walk/fun as the Gentlemen’s Dash features 13 of Greater Pittston’s finest males donning high heels for a 50-yard dash up Main Street.
This year’s participants are Mike McGinley, Bob Kalinowski, Matt Green, Vincent Latona, Michael McFarland, Frankie Cawley, Scott Verdine, Patrick Bilbow, David Pacchioni, David Pedri and Chris Lubinski.
Each runner tries to raise the most money, with the winner supposedly getting the option to run in flats, but Sciandra shot that motion down saying it’s only a myth.
The idea for the Gentleman’s Dash was the brainchild of Sciandra’s husband Sal.
“Sal has excellent ideas and we joke about it a lot,” Sciandra said. “He’ll toss out ideas and Qiana and I will execute them. So, he said ‘You need to come up with an idea where people are donating and all of that money is going to the cause. Get a bunch of guys to run around in high heels’ and it stuck. It is a genius idea because we have people that the community knows and their family and friends donate.”
The amount to beat from last year’s Gentleman’s Dash is $23,592 but the overall amount to beat is more than $37,000 which was raised in 2016.
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher