I don’t know how many charitable events I do every year. I have lost count. I’m not saying this to brag, rather I’m pointing this out because part of my responsibility in my position is to give back … and that includes hosting everything from awards ceremonies to golf tournaments .. and there are many. While they are all special and important in one way or another, there are a few that have become special to me personally.
One such event is the Relay for Life event in Waynesburg, Greene County. Relays for Life raise both funds and awareness of cancer in communities all across this country. In May 2001, I was contacted and asked if I would be the emcee for the opening ceremonies. It’s a long way from Pittsburgh and the North Side where I lived at the time. Still, I thought what the heck. I had been to the area while covering high school sports and I thought a one-time appearance would be a positive thing.
Taking the ceremonial opening walk at the Greene County Relay for Life. I’m on the left. To the left of me is Emily Mathason and to the right, holding the banner, is Christina Lahew
That was eight years ago. Each year since, I have returned in early May to join 300-plus people, many of them survivors, in the opening recognition ceremonies followed by taking a lap around the Waynesburg Central High School track. The event never ceases to both amaze and move me .. sometimes to tears.
So why do I go back? What is the draw? It’s the story and the courage of two young women. One of whom I have known since the very beginning. Christina Lahew was five years old when I first met this cancer survivor. She was young and with a positive attitude and tremendous courage, she beat cancer. She is now 13 and each year have the one day to get together and exchange stories and talk about how our lives have changed. She is now a near straight-A student and wants to become a foresnics expert. While she has two wonderful parents, I can’t help but feel like a proud dad when I see her grow each year.
Sharing an hugwith Emily Mathason at Greene County’s Relay for Life last Saturday
Emily Mathason is now 21 years old. We first met a few years ago this relay. She is also a cancer survivor. A young girl of great courage and strength. She wants to become an actress and stage performer and plans to pursue her dreams in Los Angeles. As you can see, when we first saw each other at this year’s relay, we hugged as well, like two friends who had not seen each other in a year .. because like with Chrissy, it’s our yearly reunion.
It’s these two women … and the great communities of Greene county … that have captured my heart and cause me to come back every year to take part in this special event. Just one of many I am honored to do every year around western Pennsylvania. It’s not more important than any other. It’s just special to me.