By Jordan Cohen
Maxine McGaughy of Warren had a personal reason for volunteering Saturday at the Relay for Life fundraising launch at Stevens Park. She has been a cancer survivor since 2004.
“I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and had to undergo treatment for 10 months, but it’s been dormant since then,” said the 47-year old home-care health worker. McGaughy acted as the “pocket lady” sporting a large colorful apron containing a number of deep pockets. Children whose parents bought tickets could “pick a pocket” and keep the toys and souvenirs it contained.
“I love doing this so much that I actually walked in 15 different relays last year,” said McGaughy.
The launch was the first of its type for Niles, according to Denise Seman of McKinley Heights, a chairwoman for this year’s Relay for Life. Seman said 23 vendors, with products ranging from food to cosmetics to dog training, paid fees to participate Saturday.
“We wanted to do something different instead of the usual fundraising, so we sent 1,200 fliers to kindergarten through fifth grade at Niles schools inviting the kids and their parents to come out.”
The strategy appeared to work. Despite overcast skies and occasional rain, a large number of children took advantage of the Kid’s Zone play area in the park as well as a number of games and crafts at various tables. Mary Ann McMahon, a retired Niles third-grade teacher, hosted a pumpkin-decorating table at which the children could choose a small pumpkin, color it and keep it. McMahon, a teacher for 39 years, has been captain of the school’s Relay for Life team since its inception in 1998.
“We’ve raised over $125,000 since then,” McMahon said. The team plans to continue its participation in next spring’s relay.
Though Relay for Life is best known for raising money for breast-cancer research and treatment, other cancer survivors say its message applies to them as well. Barbara Broz, 69, of Niles is one example. She was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer three years ago after noticing a sudden onset of vision problems.
“There are only five in a million who have this type of cancer, and I was one of them,” said Broz, a Red Cross volunteer. “So far, my tumor has shrunk, but I still get ultrasounds every four months to make sure it hasn’t spread to my liver.”
Broz said she is a regular participant in Relay for Life events. “I do this because I want someone to find a cure,” she said.
Seman said the organization did not set a fund- raising goal for the launch and eventually will set a goal for the relay.
“We raised [more than] $57,000 last time, and I’m sure the goal will be higher this year,” she said.
The relay is scheduled for May 2-3, 2014, at the Ralph Infante Wellness Center in the city’s Waddell Park.