Four local residents, a student group and their faculty adviser were recognized Sunday night during the Carbon-Tamaqua American Cancer Society's Telethon "Cancer Fighters' Dinner" held at the AMVETS in Lansford. The dinner is held each year by the American Cancer Society Telethon Committee as a kick-off and rally for the popular local televised fundraiser.
"The American Cancer Society cannot survive without volunteers like these," said keynote speaker Jo-Ann Sessa, RN, regional vice president, East Region, ACS, East Central Division. "There are 600 volunteers per every five staff members and over three million nationwide.
Sessa said volunteers nationwide have helped raise over $3.6 billion for the ACS.
The awards and recognitions given during the dinner consisted of the James J. Rhoades Award, Next Generation Leadership Award, Cancer Fighter Award, Patricia A. Haughton Award and PA House Presentation Awards.
Receiving the James J. Rhoades Award were Lehighton Middle School students and history teacher/faculty adviser John Lopata, Lehighton.
"Each year for many years, quietly, Mr. Lopata has come to the telethon and handed a check to a telethon committee member Kate Yushko, usually declining the chance to be interviewed on air," Telethon Committee Chairman Joe Krushinsky said.
"When we do coax him on air, he beams as he tells of the enthusiastic and creative ways students support ACS. This year's dinner gave us a chance to properly recognize students and their teacher."
Jessica Kutza of Coaldale earned the Next Generation Leadership Award.
"I am excited that this year's event inaugurated a brand new award category, which recognizes a young person taking leadership in part of the cancer fight," Cancer Fighters' dinner Chairwoman Kathy Dombrosky said.
Kutza, who was named the first recipient of this award, has helped organize the annual ACS Chinese Auction with her mother MaryAnn Dulaney, "Knockdown Cancer Bowl-A-Thon," and routinely participates in numerous other ACS events. Kutza, who holds a bachelor's degree from Alvernia University, is currently pursuing her master's degree from East Stroudsburg University.
"The telethon has been going strong for well over 30 years," Krushinsky said, "but the continued success and growth of the event is driven by new volunteers of all ages."
"The future is in the hands of the young volunteers who add new energy, new ideas and new chapters in the telethon tradition. This year's dinner gave us the chance to recognize all the ways that Jess Kutza is driving our cancer fight toward future success," Dombrosky said.
Danny Farole of Nesquehoning was presented the Patricia Haughton Award for Exceptional Service, named after the local cancer society unit's longtime executive director, by longtime volunteer Peggy Zimmerman.
Zimmerman said Farole performed at the very first telethon in 1980 as well as in 31 of the next 32 telethons.
"He is our troubadour, our inspiration, and a force of nature who never fails to move audiences to support our worthy cause," Krushinsky said. "Each year he charms audiences with familiar favorites like 'Tony the Ice Man,' and 'You Are My Sunshine,' as well as surprising viewers with something unexpected."
Farole pointed out his efforts were made better by fellow volunteers, such as longtime volunteer George Taylor. In 1980, Taylor helped Tamaqua High School students implement the first ACS Telethon at the school.
Ted and Susie Bortnick of Coaldale were presented the 2012 Cancer Fighter Award, which was created to recognize someone who has fought cancer either as a volunteer or as a patient.
"Ted and Susie personally faced the disease; each supported the other through those most challenging times, and each has found opportunities to help many others through their volunteer work with the American Cancer Society here in our area," Dombrosky said. "Together, their story of courage, compassion and commitment are an inspiring example to others and we love this chance to salute and thank them."
In addition to providing the importance of having dedicated volunteers, Sessa also provided details about the American Cancer Society executive report, which explains recent advances in cancer control. While recalling a memory with her family during a past Relay For Life event, Sessa said, "No one should have to walk alone."
This is what was said to Sessa's mother, a cancer survivor, by an unknown individual during the survivor's lap of the relay. Sessa mentioned that the ACS is the largest private funder of cancer research.
Danny Farole, his son Dominic Sr., and his grandsons Dominic Jr. and Antonio, 5, provided entertainment during the event.
Carbon Tamaqua Unit Volunteer Leadership Committee Chairwoman, Dr. Rosalee Rehrig, expressed the committee's appreciation to Sessa, award recipients and all who support the efforts of the ACS.
Representatives Jerry Knowles (R-124), a longtime volunteer, and Doyle Heffley (R-122), were both on hand to present the award recipients with PA House Presentation Awards. Sen. Argall, who wasn't at the event, provided all award recipients with PA Senate Presentation Awards.
This year's two-day 24-hour telethon airs on both Saturday, April 14 and Sunday, April 15.