DANVILLE — For seven years, communities and organizations in Central Susquehanna Valley have worked to fight childhood cancer in a September initiative called “Going Gold.” As part of that initiative, they have raised awareness and more than $65,000 in funding for the ThinkBIG Pediatric Cancer Fund.
This year, for the first time, a kickoff event will be held leading up to September and Pediatric Cancer Education Month, from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Hess Field in Danville. The event will feature a variety of food trucks, live music, family activities and beer vendors. In recent years, a kickoff event has been held at Old Forge Brewing Company in Danville. Owners Maria and Damien Malfara will continue to be involved in organizing the event this year.
According to Colleen Phillips, vice president of marketing for Service 1st Federal Credit Union, one of the companies leading the Going Gold initiative, “As a committee, we’ve talked many times about hosting a family event away from home. We’re very excited that we can organize this year’s event at Hess Field to raise awareness about childhood cancer.”
After an online event held last year due to the COVID pandemic, Phillips said he looks forward to continuing Going Gold in person.
The public is encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blankets and enjoy the following live entertainment: Woody Wolfe, 12 noon to 12:45 pm; Mark Cresswell, 13 to 13:45; Uptown Music Collective, 2 to 2:45 p.m.; Antonio Andrade, 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.; Frank Wicher, 4 to 4:45 p.m.; and AC Soul Medicine, 5 to 5:45 p.m.
On-site food trucks include The Mad Griller, The Miss Cupcake & Let’s Make Whoopie Dessert Truck, Real Taste Food Truck & Catering, Bason Coffee Roasting, and Rexy’s Gourmet Dogs.
A liquor store will feature beer from Old Forge Brewing Company, Danville; Marley’s Brewery & Grille, Bloomsburg; Matty’s Sporthouse & Grill, Lewisburg; Rusty Rail Brewing Company, Mifflinburg; Towne Tavern, Lewisburg; and Jackass Brewing Company, Lewisburg. Proceeds from beer sales will also benefit ThinkBIG Fund.
Colby Wesner is president of ThinkBIG, which was founded in 2014. The name comes from a young man, the late Carmine Monacelli, of Scranton, whom Wesner cared for during his cancer treatments. Monacelli often spoke about his big dreams of what he wanted to be when he grew up.
According to Wesner, the organization has “always had the primary mission of alleviating the stress of everyday financial expenses so that families battling childhood cancer can focus on treatment and cure.” It was a need Wesner identified during his pediatric residency training at Geisinger. “Before ThinkBIG was founded, families in this region didn’t really have significant financial resources to help them overcome the difficulties associated with a childhood cancer diagnosis,” he said.
Since its inception, the organization has helped nearly 160 different families with more than $825,000 in financial support. The families come from all over central and northeastern Pennsylvania, including Snyder, Union, Northumberland, Montour, Columbia, and Lycoming counties.
Wesner said he was proud to say that 90 cents of every dollar spent goes directly to these families.
The area’s Going Gold initiative began in 2015, when local singer-songwriter Woody Wolfe approached Old Forge Brewing Company and Service 1st with the question, “Why not go for gold?” The gold ribbon has long been the symbol of childhood cancer.
That eventually grew into a month-long awareness effort, Phillips said. “Each year, support expands as volunteers and organizations join the fight against childhood cancer.”
Several fundraisers and events will be held in September to benefit the ThinkBIG Pediatric Cancer Fund. This includes an online fundraiser for going gold shirts. Visit https://goinggold.graphichivestores.com/ to purchase a shirt.
Old Forge Brewing Company and Marley’s Brewery & Grille have teamed up again on a special brew called Gold Dust. The companies will each donate $1 per pint sold during the month of September, while supplies last.
In addition, three more events will take place in September:
Beginning Thursday, September 9 at 5 p.m., Union Cellars in Lewisburg will donate 50 percent of wine/beer sales to Going Gold. Entertainment will be provided by Mark Cresswell, and the Kitch It To the Curb food truck will be on site.
Beginning Wednesday, September 15 at 5:00 PM, Brendan’s Towne Tavern in Lewisburg offers food and drink specials and live entertainment.
Beginning September 16 at 6:00 PM, the Watson Inn in Watsontown will host an unofficial cornhole tournament.
“It’s absolutely incredible to see how much the Going Gold movement has grown,” Wesner said, adding that it’s “great proof” of the list of participating companies growing every year.
“A few years ago, the Valley wasn’t all that gold, and it’s absolutely incredible how the efforts of these companies have helped change that landscape. ThinkBIG is truly grateful for their support.”
The organization has reported that approximately 15,500 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer each year and that research into cures is “severely underfunded.”
Every year, Wesner and the ThinkBIG partners hope to change that.
“Despite the fact that childhood cancer is unfortunately very common, not many people recognize the gold ribbon, or do not know that Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is in September,” Wesner said. “One of the main goals of this movement is to bring that awareness to the community so that maybe they can continue to advocate for children, get more education about childhood cancer, and be willing to support various childhood cancer organizations.
For more information, visit https://service1.org/goinggold or call the Service 1st Contact Center at 800-562-6049.