Volunteers already gearing up for Greencastle Relay for Life 2013

— By PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Steve Biesecker, left, and Matt Brown co-chair Greencastle Relay for Life. They hosted the team kickoff meeting Oct. 22, with the theme “A Festival of Hope”.

Cancer affects too many people personally, and that is what draws volunteers to raise money through the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The theme for the next relay is “A Festival of Hope”. Though Greencastle's event is not until May 17 and 18, 2013, the kickoff meeting was held Monday to give anxious teams an earlier start to the $288,500 fundraising goal. The money goes into research, education, advocacy and patient services.

New Greencastle co-chairs agreed to lead the effort because cancer had touched them too. Steve Biesecker is eight years cancer-free of renal cell carcinoma, which resulted in the loss of a kidney. Matt Brown, while involved in the walk-a-thon for many years, has recently had a number of family members diagnosed with forms of the disease.

"That is my drive to continue with Relay for Life," he told the assembled team leaders and Relay committee at First United Methodist Church.

The financial goal in 2013 is up from the $284,250 from last year. The committee hopes to maintain 70 participating teams, and increase the number of registered survivors from 184 to 200.

One young girl will do her part to help. Morgan Stahley, 14, a freshman at Greencastle-Antrim High School, will fulfill her community service hours by interning at the ACS office in Chambersburg, particularly in organizing Greencastle's relay.

"I've been relaying since I was 2," she said. "I lost my dad to cancer. So this is close to my heart and I enjoy doing it every year."

Her father, Jeff Stahley, a police officer for the Borough of Greencastle, died in 1999 when Morgan was 8-months-old.

The rally cry

John Segneri, Harrisburg, was the featured guest on behalf of Voices of Hope, a regional speakers bureau of cancer survivors and caregivers willing to share their stories. He was introduced to cancer as a young boy, when his grandmother was diagnosed, and everyone was scared. She died in five months at age 58.

"Decades ago, no one talked about cancer. Now we shout it from the rooftops," he said.

He lost six aunts and uncles to cancer, and his mother to melanoma, a year after her diagnosis. Then the pendulum swung at him.

"In 1999 I woke up in the middle of the night in extreme pain, and at the ER found out I had a kidney stone," said Segneri, now 63. Through further testing, the doctor also discovered he had prostate cancer. That started 12 years of treatment including 13 surgeries for several types of cancer. He developed squamous cell carcinoma next. In 2005 he learned he had thyroid cancer, which kept spreading to other parts of the body and lymph nodes. He still has small nodules being monitored.

Relay for Life became a cause for Segneri’s entire family, and the team has raised $300,000 over the years. He encouraged the Greencastle crews.

"I still believe, if it wasn't for people like you, I wouldn't be here. Cancer will do a job on your body, mess with your mind, but it can't get rid of hope."