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Despite changes and challenges, Baldwin Relay expects success

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Joe Walsh of Whitehall and event chairperson Jen Martin set up luminarias around the Baldwin High School track on Friday, June 21, during Relay for Life.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Relay for Life participants (from left) Zach Dunois of Baldwin Borough, Matt Conway of Baldwin Township, Zack Bernarding of Whitehall and Donovan Hinish, 9, of Whitehall collect money as they circle the Baldwin High School track.
Randy Jarosz | For The South Hills Record
Brentwood Middle School special education teacher Diana Kleinhampl donates money to Alex Labryer, 7, of Pleasant Hills during Relay for Life at Baldwin High School.

Participants walk around the high school track for nearly 18 hours, taking turns alongside friends, family and strangers.

They light glow sticks, have scavenger hunts, and enjoy food and fun.

It's a celebration of hope, and a coming together of those that have been affected by cancer.

Relay for Life of Baldwin is returning for its fourth year at the Baldwin High School stadium on June 20, with opening ceremonies starting at 6 p.m. The event continues through noon the next day, representing a night in the life of a person suffering from cancer.

“It creates a sense of community between everyone that's been touched by cancer,” said Kristen Nuss, Relay for Life specialist with the American Cancer Society.

Money raised from Relay for Life events goes toward cancer research and American Cancer Society programs and services, such as the volunteer drivers that take people with cancer to treatment.

The first year, the event was geared only toward Baldwin-Whitehall. Later, it also included Brentwood.

As of Friday, there are 156 people signed up to participate on 15 teams.

The first year, Relay for Life of Baldwin brought in about $38,000 with 22 teams participating. That has grown to about $69,000 raised last year.

The goal is to raise slightly more this year, despite the decline in number of team participants, now that the event is no longer held during the school year because of scheduling conflicts at the stadium, organizers said.

The fundraising event brings together those affected by cancer.

“You laugh. You cry. You make jokes. You just celebrate,” Jen Martin, 32, of Whitehall, event chair for the Relay for Life of Baldwin and team captain for “Angels Among Us.”

Martin's mother, Jane, died of lung cancer five years ago at the age of 60.

A year after that, Martin, a teacher at Paynter Elementary, learned about Relay coming to Baldwin-Whitehall, enlisted her fellow teachers, Baldwin-Whitehall staff and her sister, Beth Paolicelli, to participate alongside her.

About 40 of the 60 teachers and staff at Paynter participate in some way with “Angels Among Us,” Martin said.

This year, Martin held a “Walk for Hope” fundraiser at Paynter, where students decorated and hung footprints along the school walls. Her goal was to raise $500. The students raised $744.

“Angels Among Us” has raised nearly $4,000 already this year.

Martin and her mom had talked about participating in Relay for Life, but they never did.

Now, Martin is overseeing the event in her mother's honor.

“She'd be proud of you,” said Melissa Sill, 31, of Whitehall, a teacher at Paynter Elementary, told Martin.

During Relay, members of each team will take turns walking the stadium track during the night. Other activities are planned.

“Just stop by,” Nuss said. “Celebrate, remember and fight back.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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