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Plum residents focus on funding children's cancer research

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Debbie DePew and Tiffany Casarcia were friends through their husbands who are teachers at Oblock Junior High School.

The two developed a strong bond after Casarcia's friend, Stacey Moskal Parsons, 22, of Plum died in 2005 after battling cancer for about four years, and DePew's daughter, Ella, now 6, in 2008 was diagnosed with a cancer of the muscle tissue.

Ella DePew has been in remission for five years, her mother said.

Debbie DePew, 37, of Plum has, over the past five years, made it her mission to raise money for research on cures for pediatric cancers.

DePew and Casarcia, 38, also of Plum, are putting the finishing touches on the Second Annual UnWINEd fundraiser from 6:30 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 6 at the Narcisi Winery on Gibsonia Road in West Deer.

The majority of the proceeds benefit the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.

The event includes food, wine tasting, auction items and entertainment.

Eighty percent of the $100 or $130 ticket price goes to the foundation for cancer research.

DePew and Casarcia, both members of the Cancer and Blood Disorders Auxiliary of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, worked to raise $55,000 last year.

This year's goal is $100,000, DePew said.

“The response has been amazing,” DePew said.

Those interested also can purchase $25 raffle tickets.

The winner gets a trip to Sonoma Valley in California or New York City.

Event and raffle ticket information can be obtained by contacting DePew at debbiedepew@yahoo.com or tcasarcia@yahoo.com.

DePew has been involved in other fundraising events.

She last year was the chairwoman of the Second Annual CureSearch Walk at Boyce Park.

In 2011, DePew joined 45 other mothers who shaved their heads in Washington D.C. to raise money for the St. Baldrick's Foundation — a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding research for cures for childhood cancers as well as giving survivors long and healthy lives, according to the group's website.

DePew said recently she decided to focus her efforts on fundraising for cancer research at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.

“What drives me is when I walk into a business and see cans for donations to St. Jude's (Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee),” DePew said. “We have Children's that is doing the same thing. We don't turn any children away. We have a free-care program.”

“(Cancer patients) don't have to go anywhere else,” Casarcia said. “We have one of the top hospitals in the world in our backyard.”

The women plan to continue their work.

“Debbie and I have big dreams and big passions,” Casarcia said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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