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For the Past 40 Years, This Fundraiser Has Brought in Over $300,000 for the American Cancer Society

In 1979, Tony Dolan, a pharmacist in Bradford, Pennsylvania, wanted to start a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society during a time of year that isn’t normally associated with outdoor fundraisers - winter. Forty years later, Tony’s children, Betsy and Mike Dolan, have continued his tradition through what is now called the Tony Dolan Memorial Ski for Cancer event, the longest running fundraiser for the ACS in the state of Pennsylvania.

Dolan was a board member and past president of the ACS when they had a local office in Bradford. “He was looking for ways to raise money for the ACS, and there’s really not much to do in the winter,” Betsy explained. “So he thought if people could cross country ski to raise money, it would be a great way to be outdoors and raise money through a different type of fundraiser.”

This year’s event takes place on Saturday, January 26th at the Westline Inn in Westline, PA (travel Rte. 219 south of Bradford). Participants of all ages and abilities can cross country ski, hike, snowshoe or even pull their children in a sled on the Kinzua Valley Trail. Each year, the Jamestown Cycle Shop brings a trailer full of skis for people to borrow if they do not have their own. Participants can travel as far as they would like on the trail, which is approximately six miles long.

During the weeks leading up to the fundraiser, participants gather pledges from friends and family, and first and second place prizes are awarded to the teams and individuals who raise the most money. Prizes are also awarded to the youngest and oldest skiers. Over the past 40 years, the annual fundraiser has raised over $300,000 for the ACS.

Nearly everyone has been affected by cancer in some way, whether personally or through the diagnosis of a family member or friend. This event gives participants the opportunity to recognize those loved ones during the fundraiser through purchasing memorial signs. Betsy explained, “A lot of people will go out on the trail to see a loved one’s sign. It’s just a nice memorial, a reminder, when you’re walking the trail of just how important this fundraiser is. You see the names of people who have passed away, and it’s just kind of a heartwarming day.”

Speaking of warmth, there will be a bonfire at the trailhead for participants to enjoy, along with hot chocolate and coffee. Beginning at noon inside the Westline Inn, there will be a pig roast with potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans and more. The cost is $10 for a pork sandwich, side and beverage, or purchase a sandwich only for $8. “We have live music with Jim Copeland from the band Second Act,” Betsy said. “He's done this for us for years for free. He's an awesome part of the community and really cares about what we do.”

Participants can begin registering for Ski for Cancer at 9am on the day of the event or register in advance online at http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/CommunityFundraisingPages/CFPCY19NER?p.... However, Betsy said people can join the fun any time after 9am and participate at their own pace throughout the day. The fundraiser includes lots of fun activities throughout the day and concludes at approximately 4pm.

“It’s a great day – lots of camaraderie with family and friends, and opportunities to win some great prizes!” Betsy pointed out. Case Knives donates a memorial knife each year that is specific to the date of the fundraiser. Other raffle prizes include a handcrafted birdhouse, luxurious blankets and a Michael Kors purse and wallet.

One of this year’s most sought after prizes is a Trek Marlin 5 bike donated by Just Riding Along Bike Shop of Bradford. Owner Pete Dzirkalis is a regular participant in the fundraiser and has been donating a bike for the past 10 years. Raffle tickets for the bike, which retails at $550, will be sold throughout the day for $5 each or three for $10. Tickets are also available now at Just Riding Along and Ott & McHenry Pharmacy, 102 Main Street in Bradford.

“It’s really a great day,” said Pete. “It’s held rain, snow or shine, so if there’s not enough snow, people can walk or ride their bikes.” Even if it does snow, Dzirkalis often rides his bike in the event and is looking forward to another great year. Cyclists can set up an appointment to have their bikes serviced this winter by calling the shop at 814-363-9101.

Betsy is excited for the 40th year of the fundraiser, and thanks the Kinzua Valley Trail Club for helping out and maintaining the bonfire at the trailhead. “This trail is the best kept secret,” according to Betsy. “There’s a beautiful creek that runs beside it. It’s a well-maintained trail, and this day is a great time for people to see how beautiful it is.”

For more information, follow the Tony Dolan Memorial Ski for Cancer event on Facebook or contact Betsy or Mike Dolan at Ott & McHenry Pharmacy at 814-362-3827.