Overnight relay event Aug. 19-20 helps fight cancer
By Gina Hethcock

       To say Michael Mancusi was a fitness devotee three years ago would be an understatement. He exercised at least three times a week, ate low-fat foods, plenty of vegetables and whole grains, and had one relative who had had prostate cancer.
       So when doctors told him at age 46 that he, too, had prostate cancer, Mancusi was devastated.
       I was surprised, said Mancusi, now 49. I thought old people who were overweight, who smoked, and with a family history got cancer. I thought, 'Hey, I don't fit the stats.' I didn't know at that time that anyone can get cancer.
       That revelation - that anyone can be diagnosed with cancer - will be the thrust of his opening ceremony speech at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Garden of the Gods. The overnight event begins Friday, Aug. 19 in Goose Gossage Park (off Fillmore Street and Mark Dabling Boulevard) at 7 p.m. and will continue until Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7 a.m.
       Mancusi, along with 11 other society volunteers, planned the relay, recruiting teams and raising $9,000 in three months. The event is one of six relay fund-raisers in the Pikes Peak region and among several thousand organized in different locales around the world.
       The way the relay works, teams of 8 to 15 people spend 12 to 24 hours walking or running around a track to raise money to fight cancer. One member of each team will be on the track during the entire event.
       All 11 local Relay For Life volunteers have been touched by cancer. Captain Nick Halupka, relay chair, has survived cancer twice: once six years ago when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and a second time three years ago with testicular cancer. He also has a mother who is a breast cancer survivor and a grandfather who died of liver cancer.
       I just felt it was time to give back, Halupka said. I really do hope it's a success.

Gina Hethcock is media and marketing manager for The American Cancer Society.