Relay for Life events help American Cancer Society all year
On Oct. 17, downtown Greensburg will be filled with teams raising money for a good cause while having a heck of a good time.
As part of the Great Race of Greensburg, more than a dozen teams of four to six people will run their own version of television’s “The Amazing Race,” running from merchant to restaurant, landmark to pub.
A Women’s Business Network, Greensburg chapter, event, the race helps raise money for Kathy’s Krusaders, a team with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Greensburg.
The next Relay for Life is set for June 6 at Hempfield Area High School’s Spartan stadium.
“It’s so easy to write a check. People like events. The more people we have, the more money for Relay,” says Amy Fauth, race creator and coordinator.
“We have had a Relay for Life team ever since it started in Greensburg. This is my crazy idea, but it’s definitely a team effort,” she says.
Kathy Ribinscky, who was a team member, was diagnosed with cancer while the group was fundraising, Fauth says.
“She continues to be our inspiration and motivation. Everyone has some connection to cancer. (We) all have different motivational stories behind us,” she adds.
Team members pay a $30 registration fee (individuals or those without teams can register day of) and compete to make it back first to Rialto Cafe, 25 W. Otterman St., to win various prizes.
“My goal for our team is (to raise) $3,000 and we meet it every year,” Fauth says.
“I try to keep it fresh and get new merchants involved. We have people outside of Greensburg (participating) who don’t know where anything is, and it’s more of a challenge,” she says.
Participants are encouraged to dress in Halloween costumes or wear team T-shirts. Racers pick up clues by completing various challenges or puzzles at participating businesses, often finding new places to patronize and striking up new friendships, Fauth says.
“After the race, we go back to Rialto Cafe and have an after-party,” she says.
Participants can enjoy food, a costume contest, basket raffle and 50/50.
Finding fun fundraisers
Along with the regular ticket and flower sales, cash bashes and guest bartender fundraising events, relay teams dream up some more off-the-wall types of entertainment to attract attention, participation and funds for their teams.
“Relay for Life events are the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society,” says Katie Ronald, senior community development manager for the society’s northeast region.
The national fundraiser is 35 years old. The fundraising “season” begins each September, Ronald says, following the summer relays.
“We always tell people — teams and volunteers — to find something they like to do and then turn it into a fundraiser,” she says.
In Westmoreland County, Latrobe’s relay is the oldest, at 26, with Greensburg the newest at 7 years, Ronald says.
Relay for Life of Norwin held a February rock concert featuring Bon Journey to raise funds for its June 1 relay, held at Norwin stadium.
Earlier this year, team fundraisers included a Cinco de Mayo concert and a St. Patrick’s Day party.
A Vera Bradley bingo event is planned Oct. 20 at Antonelli’s Event Center in North Huntingdon.
“That’s organized by a group of friends and family who have been doing it for years. It’s very popular and usually sells out. They have a basket raffle, 50/50 and things like that,” Ronald says.
And a Relay for Life of Latrobe team benefited from a summer demolition derby event.
Mt. Pleasant and Greensburg Relay for Life teams find success with the popular “Me and My Special Guy” dances, Ronald says.
“When we find something that works, like the Great Race, we definitely share that in other areas,” she says.
Coop’s Crew, another Greensburg team, is hosting a pancake and sausage breakfast fundraiser from 8 a.m. to noon on Oct. 20 at the Greensburg VFD No. 2 hall, on North Main Street.
Breakfast also includes applesauce or fruit cocktail, coffee, tea or milk, for a $7 donation.
Now a leader
Donna Zukas of Apollo started as a volunteer for Relay for Life Apollo and now leads Relay for Life Apollo which will be celebrating its 25th year on May 29.
“It is great to have events in many communities because some survivors or those undergoing treatment can’t travel far but they want to be a part of this,” says Zukas, senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society. “It’s an event that celebrates survivors. We definitely think it’s important to find new survivors and to connect them with people who might be going through the same things as they are going through.”
She says they have people attend who are 10-, 20- and 30-year cancer survivors for the event held at Apollo-Ridge High School. “That gives people recently diagnosed, hope,” she says.
It will be 20 years for Relay for Life Riverview on May 30 at Riverview High School.
“We have had such great community involvement,” says Moochie Donatucci, a cancer survivor. “We believe in this so we want to keep it going. I am thankful to be alive and this is my way to give back. We try to do so much for the survivors and let them know we know what they have gone through. We know it’s rough.”
She says the community embraces the event and that’s why it has survived two decades.
“It’s about raising money to save more lives,” she says. “We see many families come here to enjoy the entertainment and the kids love being part of the day too.”
Last year they used the board game “Sorry” as a theme for “Sorry Cancer, We Choose Life.”
JoAnn Monteleone of Natrona Heights is a two-time cancer survivor who started the Relay for Life Highlands 18 years ago. The Natrona Heights resident attended an event in North Carolina which inspired her to bring one here.
At one of the first events she met a young woman who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She was crying and I told her, ‘I know what you are going through,’ ” Monteleone says. “I told her that the day you are diagnosed, you are a survivor and that there is always hope. If I can help one person this is all worth it. To this day, she tells me what a difference I made in her life. Connecting with someone like this young woman is what Relay for Life is all about.”
Monteleone’s daughter, Josette, has taken over the event her mother started nearly two decades ago. Josette Monteleone says her mother is an inspiration to everyone, not just cancer survivors, and spending time with her mom at Relay for Life events is a way to create memories of a lifetime.
The next event is June 2020 at Highlands High School — a dinner for the survivors.
“A lot of people don’t know Relay for Life is open to the public,” Monteleone says. “We welcome everyone to be part of this.”
One of the most moving parts of the day is the evening when they do luminary bags on which people put a name in honor or memory of a loved one affected by cancer. Blues singer Miss Freddye, a cancer survivor, has attended past events. And the community has always been supportive, Monteleone says.
“We need continuous light because cancer never sleeps,” Monteleone says.
“We also have survivors carry the torch. Fighting cancer is so hard. I know because I have watched my mother and my father, who died from lung cancer, deal with it. We won’t be done with Relay for Life until we have a cure.”