PITTSTON — The streets of Pittston turned pink again Saturday with several races — one serious, one just for fun — culminating a month-long effort to raise money for breast cancer research.
Paint Pittston Pink is the brainchild of Barbara Sciandra and Qiana Lehman, who in 2014 organized the group’ first three-day event. It has since grown to a week and is now hosting activities throughout an entire month.
To Sciandra’s mother, Elaine Fisher, the fundraiser reflected her daughter’s positive spirit and ability to thrive in the midst of adversity.
“The first week of nursery school, I got a call from the teacher,” she recalled. “Barb always spoke her mind, so I thought ‘What did she say?’”
Much to Fisher’s delight, the teacher relayed to her that Barb had told everyone, “I have a wonderful mother and a wonderful father and a wonderful sister. I’m so happy.”
It is that spirit, Fisher said, that not only sustained her daughter during her battle with breast cancer, but also then moved her to organize Paint Pittston Pink with Lehman. The aim is to raise money to help others who are still suffering.
“She participated in a clinical trial and she wanted to help others have the same opportunity for treatment,” said Fisher. “All the money raised goes directly to cancer research.”
The hard work culminated Saturday with a 5K race, 1-mile walk and gentlemen’s dash, with hundreds of people making their way to the city’s Main Street.
Melissa Heffron, Wyoming, clad in pink, covered with pink chalk dust and smiling, participated in the walk portion of event. She was recently diagnosed.
“I have a wonderful prognosis and a solid support system,” she said. “It’s all about having a good outlook and a positive attitude. It’s been a great day.”
Gene Blaum, of Malvern, returns to Pittston each year to participate in the 5K.
“Barb is my cousin,” he said. “I’ve run for the whole five years (of the event). It’s a bit of a family tradition.”
Blaum also enjoys seeing the city’s Main Street continuing to flourish, with new businesses and improvements to be seen every year as he runs through the city.
Mike McGinley, of the Times Leader Media Group, was one of 11 men participating in the Gentlemen’s Dash which required high heels, a bit of humility and a great deal of balance as participants raced through a block of Main Street.
McGinley was happy to raise money for such a good cause and also appreciated the chance to build camaraderie with other community leaders.
“Raising money for Paint Pittston Pink and participating in this dash has been one of the highlights of my life,” he said. “I’m so glad to have participated because not only does the money go toward an amazing cause, but I’ve met many new friends, especially the other gentlemen in the race. Past dashers told me I’m now part of the ‘fraternity.’”
McGinley lauded organizers of Paint Pittston Pink and fellow participants in the race and other events.
David Pedri, Luzerne County manager, also ran in the dash. He said he had a new respect for women who make their way through the day in high heels with such grace.
As Pedri took off his heels, he said, laughing, “It’s easier to run the county than to run a block in high heels.”
When it was suggested to pizza-shop owner Francine Arcaro that the business participate in Paint Pittston Pink, she immediately asked for pink food dye and came up with pink pizza and garlic knots shaped like the breast cancer ribbons.
Her shop, Arcaro’s The Next Generation, donated 10 percent of all pink food purchases Friday and Saturday to the group.
Arcaro, who has five children and whose husband died last year, said when faced with adversity, individuals either become bitter or better.
“People have been so kind to us here in Pittston,” she said. “And our family is more than happy to give back to the community.”
Sciandra said the month-long effort is anticipated to raise about $100,000, which goes directly to cancer research.