S. ABINGTON TWP. — Abington Heights junior Matt Franchetti believes the Relay For Life of Abington, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, continues to expand its scope.
“It seems more and more people become involved every year,” he said. “Even though we lost a group of seniors who have been involved with it forever, there are a lot of freshmen involved that really have a drive to keep the event going.”
Franchetti began participating in the relay as a seventh-grader and quickly became hooked.
“I’ve served on a committee each year, since eighth grade,” he said. I’ve worked my way around and this year I’m one of the event chairs.”
He’s been motivated to raise funds to combat the disease due to the toll it has taken on his loved ones.
“I have many family members who have either fought or passed away from cancer,” Franchetti said.
Heather Mitchell, who is serving as the other event chair, enjoys interacting with the individuals supported through the relay.
“You meet a lot of people from the community who we help and who this disease affects,” Mitchell, a senior said.
As a freshman, Mitchell was in charge of planning the dinner for people battling cancer or cancer survivors and their caregivers.
“It was nice,” she said. “I sat and talked with the different people there. You know they’re all going through the same thing or they have gone through it. It’s also a way for survivors to talk to those who are still fighting and give them hope.”
Steve Wallo, Director of Young Adult Ministry at Our Lady of the Snows Parish, who assists the students each year believes their individual situations help make the event special.
“Each one of them has a unique story about why they do the relay,” Wallo said. “Each one of them has been affected by cancer in some way. It’s one of those things that no matter who you are, it’s touched you in some way. It really creates an energy within those students and they want to be a part of the event year after year.”
According to Wallo, the students are very invested in the cause and devote a lot of time toward raising funds and recruiting others to join the relay efforts.
“They really have a dedication to start early, look at everything they need to do and start driving toward the goal,” he said.
This year’s event will begin at 3 p.m. May 20 and end at 8 a.m. May 21 at Abington Heights High School. Registration will begin at noon.
A survivor’s lap will be held at 6 p.m. followed by a dinner and then a luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m.
“During the ceremony, we line the track at the high school with white bags and candles,” Wallo said. “The bags are purchased by people throughout the community in remembrance or in honor of someone who has cancer or has passed away.”
Wallo feels each group of students brings innovative ideas to make the relay a success.
“Every two to three years, they have new personalities and new leadership traits,” he said. “They have new ways of doing things which always makes for an exciting event.”
The group has raised $1,276.91 of their goal of $15,000 with 25 days remaining until the event.
“We expanded our committee and we’re doing a lot better than last year at this time,” Franchetti said. “We’ve been working since October to make the day happen and it’s fast approaching.”
To learn more about the relay, make a donation or purchase a luminaria, visit http://bit.ly/2q2LtpA.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.