Norwin relay deals cancer another blow
The fight against cancer builds momentum year after year through the Relay For Life of Norwin.
Norwin High School hosted the ninth annual installment Saturday and Sunday to which raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Nearly 600 turned out for the 24-hour relay, including 40 teams and more than 350 registered participants.
“We're always really pleased with anybody that's able to make it out,” Relay chairperson Kelly Fennessy said.
Cheryl Baum, 49, of North Huntingdon Township cut the ribbon for the opening ceremonial lap. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on Feb. 8 at Excella Square at Norwin.
Baum said her experience as the starter was “emotionally overwhelming.” She said being at the event felt different this time because in other years she served on the survivors committee and organized the survivors dinner.
“I feel very fortunate to have been diagnosed early,” Baum said. “My chance of survival is very high. There are many people here today who have suffered a whole lot more than I have. Because of that, I felt (cutting the ribbon) was an honor I didn't deserve.”
Baum is the human resources director at Duncan Financial, where the company's leader John Duncan has twice survived the disease.
“He's been my mentor through the entire process as to how to handle cancer,” Baum said. “You have to look at each phase as a different step.”
Duncan said counseling cancer patients “lets them know that there's hope.”
“(One) piece at a time helps in the sense that the whole thing can be so overwhelming at times,” he said. “It helps to put some of that away and just focus on what you have to deal with today.”
Baum said support from her husband Craig Baum has helped her get through the difficult times.
“Once you're diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family,” Baum said.
Team 62 Balloons was led by North Huntingdon Township couple Nikki and Jeff Palm, who participated in their fourth Relay. They have increased the balloons by one each year to reflect the age Jeff Palm's mother Sue Palm would have been if not for cancer.
She was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2005 and died in 2008. She was a nurse for more than 30 years and was an avid Relay participant.
“She spent her life taking care of other people,” Jeff Palm said. “We came down here originally to walk with her. After she passed away we got even more involved. We didn't want that to happen to other people and have to go through what we went through. She was here the first couple years after she was diagnosed.
“It's a way of not forgetting why we do this. We know that if she was still around, she would still be here trying to do the same thing we are. We celebrate the fact that another year has passed and there's another chance for us to go out and help other people.”
Team 62 Balloons walks with signs in memory and in honor of cancer victims and survivors who are unable to participate in Relay.
“We put out a message on Facebook asking people if there's a loved one that they would want us to walk for them,” Nikki Palm said. “We're doing laps for people. We'll take a picture and tag it on Facebook and Instagram and show them. It helps put a face to the name while you're walking. It helps people recognize you're here for a purpose. You're not just here walking around in a circle.”
In accordance with the theme “Lights, Camera, Cure,” several booths had movie-theme activities. Others had Chinese auctions and raffles, or sold jewelry, candy, food and photographs to help raise money.
One of the more popular games was bra pong, in which gamers bounced ping pong balls into bras hung on a board for a chance to win prizes.
The traditional luminary ceremony and a victory lap concluded Relay's first day, but fundraising won't end until sometime in August, when the funds are tallied.
The 2012 Relay raised more than $82,000. This year's goal is $90,000.
Fennessy said more than $52,000 already had been accounted for before the first lap.
Fennessy has been involved in Relay since 2009. This was her first year as chairperson.
“I had the world's most amazing committee,” she said. “I really give them all the credit for helping to make the event such a huge success.”
Relay has an educational element, too. Information about the American Cancer Society and its programs and support groups was made available.
“I want everybody out there fighting as hard as they can,” advocacy chairperson Jan Peters said. “I want everybody to be aware of every single thing that is out there to help them so that, if they do have to battle cancer, it's a little easier.”
More information about the American Cancer Society is available online at cancer.org or by calling 800-227-2345.
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965 or email@example.com.