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Hundreds fight cancer at Champion the Cure Challenge

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kelsey Price, center, a junior at Hamden Academy gets affection from her Hampden Academy field hockey teammates before they participated in the Champion the Cure Challenge in Brewer on Saturday, August 20, 2011. Price has been in treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma since it was discovered she had the disease a month ago
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

BREWER, Maine — Hampden Academy field hockey player Kelsey Price, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma about a month ago, arrived at Saturday’s Champion the Cure Challenge and was immediately surrounded by a sea of purple.

The 16-year-old high school junior was engulfed in a wave of teammates who came out 30-strong to support her in her battle against cancer. Many of the teen girls — dressed in their uniform tops — were crying or struggling to hold back tears when they saw her.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen her since the diagnosis,” explained teammate Maggie Ross, a senior at Hampden.

“She was diagnosed a couple [weeks] ago,” said Hillary Seekins, another Hampden senior.

Team Kelsey raised money to support the cause and ran the 5K in their teammate’s honor.

“She’s still part of the team,” said Hampden Academy senior Olivia Plaisted.

Kelsey, who stood with her parents, held her purple uniform jersey in her hands as she watched her teammates take off running Saturday morning from the Lafayette Family Cancer Center.

“It feels great” to have their support, she said just before the group departed.

Her hair was under a wrap and scars from her cancer treatment were visible, tell tale signs that Kelsey and her doctors are aggressively fighting the Hodgkin’s.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma, once called Hodgkin’s disease, is a cancer of the body’s lymph tissue and is considered one of the most curable forms of cancer, if caught early.

“That’s why we’re here,” Jeni Lloyd, cancer survivor and event project manager, said holding back her own tears and indicating to the group of teens in purple.

Finding a cure so young and old afflicted with the disease have a future, is the underlying goal, she said.

“There are 30 to 40 research trials going on here at CancerCare of Maine all the time,” Lloyd said. “It’s all right here. People need to know this.”

The Cure Challenge kicked off and ended Saturday at the Lafayette center, which is home to Eastern Maine Medical Center’s CancerCare of Maine, the beneficiary of the fundraiser.

The challenge had something for everyone, with participants choosing from a 1K family fun run-walk or 5K or 10K fun runs; 25-, 50- or 100-mile bike rides; or a 50-mile motorcycle ride. Visual participants, who could not attend in person but who wanted to support the endeavor, also could participate through the Internet by raising at least $50.

The daylong event, previously known as the Run for Hope, had live music, a photo booth, children’s area and a recognition of cancer survivors.

“We have 630 people registered and that includes about 500 participants and 100-plus volunteers,” Lloyd said Saturday. “Moneywise, there is $200,000 that I know of already in and we hope to reach the quarter-million mark.”

On Sunday the total amount raised was not available, as money was still coming in, she said.

All of the money raised will benefit CancerCare of Maine patients and their families directly.

One of the first people to arrive at the event was local restaurant owner Mary Dysart Hartt who pulled into the parking lot just after 5 a.m. for the century ride — a 100-mile bike ride to Howland and back.

Hartt, owner of Dysart’s Restaurant in Hermon, rides in honor of her dad, David Dysart, who died in September 1999 after a long battle with cancer. He and his father, Ed, founded the popular restaurant and truck stop.

“There is nothing you can do about cancer, in reality, but it makes you feel better to do something” to support those with cancer and the families who love them, she said as she prepared to depart from the Lafayette Family Cancer Center on Whiting Hill.

“I’m not a fast rider and I don’t want to be late finishing,” Hartt said of her early departure.

The restauranture, who was wearing a Dysart’s team shirt, said she raised around $7,000 herself and along with her Dysart’s teammates collectively raised more than $10,000.

As Hartt jumped on her bike to get started Saturday morning, Hampden resident Brian Fiske was on her heals. He recently lost his mother, Sandra Fiske of Medway, to cancer and said he was riding in her honor.

“When you go through something like this, you realize how much support is needed,” he said.

The presence of David Dysart is still felt at the restaurant and truck stop 12 years later, and his death motivated his daughter to change her lifestyle and lose weight, she said.

“I looked at him and said you have to be able, in your own self, find a way to try to prevent it,” Hartt said. “It gives you a mission.”

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