The telethon of the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society is an annual entertainment extravaganza, with dozens of local acts featured.
It's also a visual dossier that portrays the seriousness of the dreaded illness that, as one speaker said, "doesn't discriminate by age or race." Fortunately, said another speaker, it no longer means death is imminent, thanks to modern medicine.
The 24-hour telethon gained $187,532 in pledges. The tally was given during the telethon's grand finale at midnight.
The 32nd annual event was aired on Blue Ridge Communications TV-13. It was held at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe.
Besides the updating of the pledges throughout the event and the posting of the grand total, there were other highlights, among them being:
Ÿ The presentation of "Courage Awards" to three local residents who are battling cancer. The recipients represented three different generations: Hunter Kurak Wolfe of Jim Thorpe, age 12; Matt Bynon of Tamaqua, age 38, and Nancy Herzog of Palmerton, age 73.
Ÿ There was special recognition given to a group of "survivors," individuals who had contracted cancer, had treatment, and are now "free" of the illness.
Ÿ One of the presentations made was a check totaling $25,000 from the Sports Zoo of Lansford, representing money raised at various fundraisers including an annual Labor Day "ZooStock" festival. David Hiles, president of Hiles Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Fuel Oil in Summit Hill, and an owner of the Sports Zoo, added a $2,500 check to that amount from his firm.
Ÿ Telethon chairman Joe Krushinsky of Maryland, who makes annual treks back to his native Tamaqua each year for the event, presented a taped interview he had with Brandon Taylor, a Tamaqua resident who is currently working for a newspaper in China. Taylor presented Krushinsky with a check "from China."
Taylor's father, George Taylor of Tamaqua, who helped found the telethon, said the amount raised this year was less than last year's pledge tally of $195,085.
He said that he's very pleased with this year's total considering the current economic climate.
"We're pleased with the total," said Krushinsky. "It reflects a lot of work by a lot of people. It may be less than last year, but considering the economy and how hard hit our area has been, I think the community again has something to be proud of."
He added, "We'll start working on next year's telethon in about two weeks and we're looking for organizations to partner with. We have lots of ideas and projects we'd like to see done but we, as a telethon committee, can't do it.
"We invite anyone interested in joining us and being a part of next year's telethon, we'd like to hear from you. Contact George Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at (570) 668-4451."
Herzog and Wolfe were given plaques listing them as "Courage Award" recipients by Maureen Donovan, a member of the telethon committee.
Bynon had his plaque presented to him by fellow Tamaqua resident and telethon committee member Jerry Knowles, who is a state representative and a former mayor of the borough.
Herzog was present with her husband, Joseph, who said he is also battling cancer.
Mrs. Herzog has chronic lymphocytic leukemia and lymphoma, which is non-Hodgkin.
"So many people, when diagnosed with cancer, allow it to become a part of their life," Herzog told Donovan during the award presentation. She said she resolved that this wouldn't become her situation.
"I know they told me to slow down. I just had to keep going," she said.
When asked by Donovan if she had a message for other cancer victims, she smiled and responded, "My message is 'hang in there.' There's always hope. Fifty years ago when you were diagnosed, it was certain you wouldn't survive." She said this is no longer the case thanks because of many treatments that have become available.
Donovan told her, "You are a true inspiration."
Wolfe had plenty of support on the telethon. Besides his parents, Kimberly Sargent of Jim Thorpe and Tony Wolfe of Jim Thorpe, as well as his siblings, present were about 25 friends and classmates from St. Joseph's Regional Academy in Jim Thorpe.
Bald from chemotherapy, Wolfe was upbeat for the entire interview with Donovan, joking that he might even pursue a career in broadcasting.
She asked him about his future plans and he stated that originally he wanted to be a professional basketball player, "but ever since cancer came into my life, it opened my mind on other things."
Kim Bell, general manager of Blue Ridge Communications TV 13, extended an invitation to the Courage Award winner to visit the TV studio.
He is a victim of Pre-B acute lymphocytic leukemia. The cancer is curable but he will require treatment, including chemotherapy, for the next three years.
Family members and friends also accompanied Bynon on the telethon.
The recipient, a member of the Tamaqua Police Department, is afflicted with goblet cell carcinoid, which is a rare type of cancer and is deemed incurable.
It is currently in remission and Bynon is back to work on the police force despite being subjected to chemotherapy treatments.
His family members who were with him at Penn's Peak included his wife, Sherry, and sons, Zane Bynon, 4, and Conner Evans, 15, and stepdaughter Alexis Higgins, 12.
Knowles said to Bynon, referring to his cancer, "We often wonder, if we're confronted with this type of challenge, how we would react."
The Courage Award recipient responded, "I'm doing really good. I'm not saying it wasn't a challenge to get where I am. I feel great. I don't back down and I keep going."
He said although there currently is no sign of the cancer inside him, you're not officially considered a survivor until you're free of chemotherapy and other treatments for five years.
He told Knowles, "I feel like a survivor today."
Bynon pointed out that cancer doesn't discriminate.
He said this is proven by the recipients of the Courage Awards, noting, "One's a young child, I'm middle age, and there's an elderly woman."
If diagnosed with cancer, Bynon advised, "You don't have to sit at home and say 'I have cancer. I'm dying.'"
"You're only dying if you choose to be," he said.