Last summer, 2017 Peters Township High School graduates Chad Spencer and Ashley Meisel started working on bringing the annual Relay for Life back to their alma mater.

Chad Spencer

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Chad Spencer helped bring the Relay for Life back to Peters Township High School in memory of his father, Bud.

On June 15, their year of work came to fruition with the start of the 24-hour charity walk at the high school stadium.

“I really felt like I wanted to help and make it better, and Ashley agreed,” Chad said as he took a brief break from ensuring all the logistics were ready to go for Relay day.

And night. And day again.

By the following afternoon, the event had raised $44,009.59 to benefit the American Cancer Society.

Co-leaders Ashley and Chad both attend Penn State’s main campus, and they recruited fellow collegians along with students from Peters Township and Canon-McMillan high schools to organize and run the fundraiser.

Chad’s primary motivation was losing his father, U.S. Army veteran Ellsworth Richard “Bud” Spencer, to pancreatic cancer in August 2017. He planned to participate in the next Relay for Life in Peters Township, but learned the 2018 event would be a combined effort with the Chartiers-Houston community held elsewhere.

Ashley Meisel

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Co-event leader Ashley Meisel greets participants to kick off the Relay for Life.

So he and Ashley, who had participated annually since she was in eighth grade, decided to spearhead this year’s return to Peters.

“I’ve had a few family members who have been affected by cancer. I haven’t lost any immediate family to it,” said Ashley who also explained her impetus for becoming involved was wanting to raise money to continue to help patients. “It goes to all sorts of programs to help them in and out of treatment, and I really believe in that. So that’s why I keep coming back and doing it more.”

For Chad, involvement with Relay for Life represents an opportunity to communicate with others who have faced situations similar to his.

“When I was in high school and my dad was diagnosed, it was something not many other kids could relate to,” he said. “I have several friends here today who also lost parents, or a sibling or an aunt or an uncle, to cancer, and it’s really nice to be able to talk to someone on a level like that.”

Katrina's Kubs

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Cub Scout Pack 1138 and friends participate in the Relay for Life in memory of Katrina Wilk, including her husband, Steve, left, and Jon Wright in costume.

About two dozen teams participated in the Relay for Life of Peters Township and Canon-McMillan, including Katrina’s Kubs of Cub Scout Pack 1138, chartered through North Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Buffalo Township. Former Cubmaster Katrina Wilt lost her battle with cancer in March 2017.

Her husband, Steven, said the group draws substantial support from members of the community and participates in Relay for Life events throughout the area.

Among the leadership volunteers for the June 15-16 event was Jackie Thomas, a member of the Peters Township High School Class of 2019 who is on her way to study at Gannon University.

“Chad Spencer is one of my good friends, and he was trying to get people together for committees for Relay and wanted to involve high school students,” she said. “Some of the recent graduates are my good friends, and I got involved through them, because they decided it was a good thing to do.”

Art booth

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Decorating themselves at a Relay for Life act activity booth are, from left, Lilly Goris, Allie Orphall and Jackie Thomas.

Her father had a bout with skin cancer, she said, and a close friend of the family – “He was like an uncle to us” – died of cancer.

Far too many people can tell of those types of experiences, and the ultimate goal of Relay for Life is to help bring an end to all of that.

“This event has meant a lot to us,” Chad said. “The money that we raise is great, but really seeing everyone out here enjoying this, seeing survivors and hearing stories about people who made it through, is really amazing.”

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Anna and Sam Hazo

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Anna and Sam Hazo perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” to launch the Relay for Life of Peters Township and Canon-McMillan.


Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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