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Relay for Life events planned for June 7, June 14

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A four-year survivor of the illness, Franco Colonna doesn't even like to say the word cancer.

"Every time I hear it, it just drives me crazy, especially if it's kids," Colonna said.

Colonna was 55 years old when he was diagnosed with abdominal sarcoma. A tumor had wrapped around some of the organs in his abdomen.

It weighed 22.3 pounds exactly.

"That's a number that stays in your head the rest of your life," Colonna said.

Colonna, an employee of Charleston Newspapers, is one of many cancer survivors and others who will take part in the annual Kanawha County Relay for Life, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Capitol Complex June 14.

The Sissonville community holds a separate Relay for Life event, scheduled for 7 p.m. June 7 at Sissonville High School.

Teams from all over the county are raising money for the event, which lasts through the night until the early morning.

Money raised during the event benefits cancer research and services for cancer patients, said Nicole Manuel, American Cancer Society (ACS) community manager for Kanawha County.

This is Manuel's first year as community manager for Kanawha County. She previously volunteered for ACS in Raleigh County.

If the community reaches its goal of $105,000 the night of the Capitol Complex event, Manuel will cut her hair and donate the ponytail to make a wig for cancer patients, then allow volunteers to shave her head. Manuel's hair is currently about halfway down her back, she said.

By allowing volunteers to shave her head, Manuel wants to show her dedication to Kanawha County, she said.

Manuel won't be the only one going to extreme measures to raise money for Relay.

Joan Newhouse Baldwin, 59, will do a 42-mile hike from the WVU Extension Service office in Jackson County to Sissonville High School.

So far she's raised about half of her $1,500 goal.

Baldwin lost four uncles to cancer and her nephew has the illness now, she said.

Last year she did a 55-mile walk for the relay last year. She raised more than $1,500 last year.

Sissonville's event has a separate goal of $40,000, she said.

American Cancer Society services, which are supported through fundraising efforts like Relay, include volunteers to drive cancer patients back and forth from treatments, a program where cosmologists work with cancer patients who are getting used to the side effects of their treatments. ACS also offers a hotline where cancer patients can get advice and information.

The Relay event is geared toward fighting back against cancer, remembering those who have been lost and honoring cancer survivors, Manuel said.

The entire community is invited, she said.

"[You] can come out if you're not on a team and haven't raised money," she said. "You're more than welcome to come. The teams are fundraising that night. We want the community to come experience the event and help the teams in their fundraising efforts."

Baldwin can be reached at 304-549-9903.

For information about Relay, call 304-347-5872.Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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