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Monongahela Valley Hospital breast cancer walk 'a celebration'

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
About 300 walkers are expected to take part in the 10th annual Monongahela Valley Hospital Lois Orange Ducoeur Breast Cancer Walk next weekend in Charleroi.

Local cancer patients will benefit from money raised at the 10th annual Monongahela Valley Hospital Lois Orange Ducoeur Breast Cancer Walk next weekend.

Hospital staff who are planning the event urge community members to participate in Saturday's walk in Charleroi.

“It's really special for us because we work with cancer patients every day. ... To be able to plan a community event where we all come together and support one cause and to celebrate victories, to remember loved ones, it's just a really great event for us to be part of,” said Melissa Marion, the hospital's director of fund development, who is helping to plan the event.

Funds raised will benefit patients at Mon Valley Hospital's Charles L. & Rose Sweeney Melenyzer Pavilion and Regional Cancer Center. For example, Director of Radiation Oncology Debbie Burkhardt said, proceeds could upgrade technology or assist under-insured patients.

Burkhardt has witnessed the walk's growth. Organizers hope event that began a decade ago with about 25 walkers will now draw 300 people.

“There are survivors who have been treated here, and it's amazing to see all these ladies come out (to the walk) and that we're celebrating their survivorship,” Burkhardt said. “It's so impactful and powerful.”

Participants, who are asked to make a $5 donation, can choose either a 1-mile or a 2-mile trip. Anybody interested in participating may register the day of the event.

The first 300 walkers who give at least $25 will receive a free commemorative bag. The first 400 walkers will receive a “pink power towel” to wave at the start of the walk.

Pink ribbons will be posted on lampposts throughout the walk's route in honor of or in memory of people affected by cancer.

To Donna Angelo, a breast cancer survivor who completed treatment during 2006, the walk is “a celebration.”

“I've always told the ladies, to me it's kind of like a celebration. We had it, yes, but we got through it. It's a walk to celebrate life and everything that's gone on,” she said.

Angelo, financial assistant at the Mon Valley Chamber of Commerce, has participated on the walk's planning committee for several years. She underwent radiation treatments at Mon Valley Hospital.

The event is also educational, she said, pointing out it showcases information about mastectomies, wigs and tips for treatment.

“There's a lot of good information,” she said. “There are services the hospital offers that a lot of people aren't aware of. It's info I wish I would have had ... so I try to get it out to others.”

This is the first year Mon Valley Hospital staff is leading plans for the walk, and staff hope to grow the event. Previously, it was coordinated by the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, which continues to lend support.

“It's really exciting for us. It's a perfect fit. We have our regional cancer center here. We work with breast cancer patients every day,” Marion said. “We can raise these funds ... and the funds stay local.”

The breast cancer walk was created to honor the memory of Lois Orange Ducoeur, who lost her battle with cancer in 1965 at age 54, according to a hospital news release. The Ducoeur family operated Orange's Gift store and Ducoeur Furniture Store in Charleroi for 118 years.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or