Laughter wins one battle against leukemia
“If laughter could cure leukemia, Richfield Springs could have done it tonight.”
So stated Shelley McKnight, who along with Mary Weingates and Chuck McMann, co-chaired the effort at Richfield Springs Central School (RSCS) to raise money for leukemia research on February 27 and 28. The event was held in honor of and in memory of local residents who have battled, survived or are currently dealing with the disease.
On Friday, Feb. 27, a spaghetti dinner was held at RSCS, spearheaded by the retirees, staff and students at RSCS. Retirees, staff members and vendors were asked to donate ingredients for the meal. A Chinese auction with donations from businesses and organizations from Cherry Valley, Frankfort, Cooperstown, Oneida, Ilion, Mohawk, Herkimer and Utica offered well over one hundred prizes. Michelle McKnight organized this portion of the event and said many individuals from the greater Richfield Springs community and grade levels and departments within the school donated prizes for the auction. The event was co-sponsored by Thrivent Financial Group for Lutherans who agreed to contribute a significant sum money towards the cause.
Mary Weingates tries to get her stubborn donkey to cooperate and head to the basket. (Photo by Bruce Watson)
There was even an area that personalized leukemia by displaying photos of individuals whose lives have been affected by this disease. The display also educated event participants on the diagnosis and a treatment of this disease that can attack people of any age in various forms. Researchers are working hard to find a cure and the survivor rate has tripled over the last twenty years.
On Saturday, a Donkey Basketball game brought together representatives of the community and staff of the school. Shaw Brothers Donkey Basketball of Sayre, Pa., services areas from Indiana to New Hampshire and brought ten donkeys that delighted spectators. RSCS athletic announcer and event co-coordinator Chuck McMann offered, “The gym has never been so full with so many people and so full of laughter as it was at the game. The bleachers were packed and additional seating needed to be set up along the end lines of the gym.”
Watson and Jim Murphy of Kinney’s get ready to mount their donkeys in
their effort to support leukemia research. (Photo by Bruce
Mary Weingates, science teacher and coordinator of the event said, “It was an absolute hoot! No matter where you looked there was laughter and joy.”
Weingates delighted the crowd with her funky orange hat and tie-dyed pants and had a special cheering section.
“Life is all about giving back and making the world a better place for other people,” she said.
Donkey riders representing local businesses and organizations were Post 616 American Legion’s Doug Truex; Kinney’s pharmacist Jim Murphy; Price Chopper’s Justin Conklin; L. Nelson Crouss, of Stewarts; Heather Teachout of Tally-Ho; Tammy Vezza representing NY Pizzeria; and Brad Smith of the RSCS Sports Boosters. Representing businesses in Herkimer were David Bunce, Rudy’s Express Tuxedos; and Teresa Bunce, Velvet Dog Grooming Salon.
RSCS staff members who signed up to play included Jodi Bard, Darlene Barnhart, TheriJo Climenhaga, Bill Stevens, Matt Nelson, Penny Harrington, Kreig Heroth, Marieke Kearns, Julie Lyon, Lisa Mang, Joe Manzo, Jesus Martinez, Chuck McMann, Susan Otis, Karen Sportello, Joe Urtz, Karen Watson, Mary Weingates and FaithAnn Young.
Winners of the cash raffle drawing were Susan Burdick, $150; Bob Hage, $75; and Violet Moshier, $25.
Karen Watson, whose Aunt Dot (Woudenberg), lost her year long battle with leukemia in 2000, spearheaded the information and public relations portion of the event.
“It was important to put a face on this disease and to honor those who have courageously battled or are currently battling with leukemia. I was deeply moved by the various stories of family members who were featured on the display and during the event. We met some new faces that had a story to share about the disease.”
A final total for the event has yet to be determined and a penny drive among the students at RSCS continues.
Heather Teachout of The Tally Ho and Tammy Vezza of NY Pizzaria and The Richfield Diner keep on their donkeys and await a pass of the ball from their team mates at the donkey basketball game at RSCS on Saturday. (Photo by Bruce Watson)
Bruce Watson is a freelance writer for The Mercury and currently substitutes for ODY. He is a recent retiree of RSCS.