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Local girl helps cancer victims, families share their stories

| Monday, June 18, 2012, 1:53 a.m.

Kelsey Barner wanted to get more people to donate to Murrysville's Relay For Life.

She did that, and touched the lives of families affected by cancer all over the world.

Barner, a sophomore at Franklin Regional High School, compiled the book "In Their Own Words," a collection of essays written by cancer survivors and family members of those who have had loved ones lose their own battles with cancer.

Barner and her family recently had their efforts featured on "The Glenn Beck Show" on CNN Headline News.

The book began as a way to raise money for the local chapter of Relay For Life. But it has grown into a way for survivors all over the world to share their stories.

Barner began work on the project after a youth conference to discuss ways to promote Relay For Life and its message of hope. She decided to find a way to share the inspirational stories of survivors and their families.

"If we can share it with a couple, why not share it with a bunch," Barner said.

About $1,000 has been raised from the book. Each copy costs $15.

The book begins and ends with stories about Joe Leftwich, an administrator at Franklin Regional High School who brought Relay For Life to Murrysville in 2003 and lost his own battle with cancer in 2006.

Barner said Leftwich was a major influence on her when she was at Franklin Regional Middle School.

As word about her project began to spread, stories from across the world began coming in. The first book features 30 submitted essays.

Barner said she is considering a second book as well.

Taylor Barner, Kelsey's brother and a senior and Franklin Regional High School, helped type and compile the book. He said each story has its own message.

"Each one is touching in a sense," he said.

The family used an online printing company to produce the books. Kelsey put up $1,200 of her own money to pay for the first printing of 300 copies.

Camera crews from CNN were in town last week to film the Barners at their Murrysville home.

"It was exciting," Kelsey said.

Earlier this summer, the family got to meet with a group of 12 local writers who had contributed stories to the compilation. Besides 10 people who were friends of the Barners, the rest of the stories came from strangers who heard about the project.

Kim Barner, Kelsey and Taylor's mother, said meeting that group was one the highlights of the project. "It was really neat to do that," she said.

To buy a copy of the book or to submit a story, e-mail the Barners at thebarnerfamily@comcast.net .

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