Cancer awareness crucial cause for Penn Hills groups
Both Cindy Spieler and Lois Gess of Penn Hills are familiar with the toll cancer can take on a family.
Spieler's father died in 1984 after being diagnosed; Gess' mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
But through tragedy, both have developed a passion for helping those affected by the disease.
Spieler is the top fundraiser for the Pittsburgh East Relay for Life, which will take place July 12 at Yuhas-McGinley Stadium.
She and her husband Robert have raised more than $5,500 between them, and her team, The Players, has raised more than $6,500.
The Spielers took over The Players from their daughter Susan, who formed the team in memory of her former Penn Hills High School Principal Blaine Curran, who died of cancer in 2007 on the same date this year's Relay will take place.
“We got involved supporting her team of classmates, and when she went to college, my husband and I took over the team,” Spieler said.
Gess is a team parent for the Penn Hills Lady Indians soccer squad, which has organized a “Pink Game” the past four years in the fall to benefit Susan G. Komen For the Cure.
The games have steadily pulled in more money each year, from $1,055 in 2010 to $2,643 in 2013.
Overall, the games have generated more than $6,500 for cancer research.
“For me, it's a really good feeling,” Gess said.
“A few years prior to this, I had a handful of friends, including my mom, diagnosed with breast cancer. So when the opportunity came, it seemed like a great thing to do.”
In addition to proceeds from Pink Game T-shirt sales and concessions, a host of local residents, organizations and businesses stepped up in 2013 to donate or provide items for a Chinese auction. Schools throughout the Penn Hills School District solicited donations for dress-down days, local businesses donated gift cards and services, the Penn Hills Soccer Association helped sell Pink-Game T-shirts and more.
In addition, each year organizers added more educational elements during the week of the Pink Game: one year the team passed out cancer-awareness fliers; they hosted a speaker who discussed cancer awareness; and, in 2013, they held an open assembly for students.
“The girls worked really hard on this, and it was wonderful to see the community get excited about the Pink Game and support it,” Gess said.
Spieler said she and her husband are equally passionate about fighting the disease.
“It's unfortunately in the family, so we just try and bring awareness that there is help out there from the American Cancer Association, and try to get other people involved,” she said.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.