PITTSTON — Most of the city’s downtown was turned pink Saturday in honor of the Paint Pittston Pink “Color Me Pink” 5K run and family fun walk.
The nonprofit organization, co-founded by Barbara Sciandra and Qiana Lehman, helps raise money to aid cancer research and clinical trials, specifically the Pennies In Action Fund that helps Dr. Brain Czerniecki at the University of Pennsylvania.
As part of the 10 day campaign, the run and family fun walk began on Main Street at 11 a.m., running through the city before ending at the Tomato Festival grounds.
By 10 a.m., the Greater Pittston YMCA was filled with participants, many wearing raincoats over their cancer awareness T-shirts. Although the weather was dismal, participants seemed happy to be a part of the event.
As the participants registered and put their numbers on, they had an option of buying a bag of pink powder that could be opened and thrown out to the runner as they crossed the finish line, turning them “pink.”
As Sciandra helped register groups, she reminisced on the beginnings of the organization.
How it began
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, Sciandra, a pharmacist, began researching cancer and treatments. She found Dr. Czerniecki’s clinical trial vaccine and decided she wanted to be a part of it. For a year, Sciandra recieved the treatment. Today, she is cancer-free and Dr. Czerniecki’s trial has (according to Sciandra) been a success. She said he is now working on treatments for other cancers as well.
Sciandra said she wanted to focus directly on cancer research and trials, and try to help those who helped her.
Last year she founded Paint Pittston Pink, raising funds by selling flags. Word spread quickly to local businesses and groups, and within a years time, the organization went from selling flags to holding a 10-day campaign with multiple events.
This year’s goal is $50,000 — $20,000 more than last year’s. But with the help of so many local business and community members, Paint Pittston Pink is well on it’s way to meeting the mark.
“I’m so very thankful for this community and the city itself for all the support they’ve given us,” she said.
A big turnout
Roughly 700 attendees will participate in Saturday’s events, which included the 5k, family fun walk and “Gentleman’s Dash,” bringing people from all over the state and beyond.
Seven local and state pageant title holders from 2014 and 2015 participated in the day’s events, many of which were seen holding bunches of pink balloons in the YMCA gymnasium.
Cassie Cerulli, a Wilkes University student and current Miss Northeastern Pennsylvania, said many of the recent title holders wanted to help. “Anytime we can be a part of the community and give back to the community we’re going to do it.” she said.
Other participants traveled from as far as Chicago to be a part of the event.
One family gathered together to celebrate the legacy of a family member who had passed from the disease, as well as help raise money for Paint Pittston Pink.
Judy Manganaro of Naples, Florida, gathered with her sister Betty Ann, of Chicago, and daughter Katie to join their niece Joanna, of New York, to remember Mari Anna Smith, who died from cancer in February.
Joanna, who is Smith’s daughter, organized for the family to come together for the run, and also helped fund raise by selling tee shirt’s dedicated to her mother.
“In all we raised about $1,500,” she said as she pointed to her shirt.
The family said Paint Pittston Pink was a great way to bring cancer awareness to the area, as well as a way to remember and celebrate Mari Anna.
Local community organizations also attended the run, including the Pittston Area girls basketball team.
Ginger Fath, a mother of one of the team’s players, said that the group is organized of fifth and sixth grade girls who wanted to form a basketball team, since the district doesn’t have one for middle school. Fath said the girls wanted to help the community and decided to join the run.
“We are all local, all women, and it’s for a good cause,” she said.
After the family walk, complete with children wearing capes as “cape CURE-saders, there was the Gentleman’s Dash.
Men in high heels
Roughly 10 men varying in age tried their best to complete a dash wearing high-heeled shoes.
Each man raised money individually, and was told the “height of their heel” would depend on how much they raised — whoever raised the most money would wear the shortest heel.
Jay Duffy and Patrick Cosgrove were both participants in the dash. Duffy — clad in a hot-pink, curly wig and matching sunglasses — said that the men set a goal of $10,000, however they greatly surpassed that mark.
“Once you put the money we all raised together, it comes to about $17,000 to $18,000,” he said. “Everybody did their part.”
As for who will be donning the shortest heels? Cosgrove said he believes Duffy may have won, however Sciandra’s husband, Sal, may have caught up to him.
The Paint Pittston Pink campaign will conclude Wednesday with a STEM lecture at Wyoming Seminary, as well as informational sessions on participating organizations and their founders.