Six years ago, only recently diagnosed with breast cancer herself, Barbara Sciandra asked the City of Pittston if she could sell pink flags to support breast cancer research.
“We just wanted to sell flags,” she said. “Then we thought, oh, let’s do a 5K.”
That thought “spiraled” into Paint Pittston Pink, a now weeks-long schedule of events and fundraisers leading up to the Color Me Pink 5K.
“We weren’t even thinking past year one,” she said, looking back on the original event. “We just thought it would be a fun thing to do.”
Sciandra founded the event to support research into an immunotherapy treatment that she has often stated saved her life after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.
“I’m seven years out, which is amazing,” she said. “It’s going very well.”
The clinical trial of immunotherapy was privately funded at the University of Pennsylvania, so after seeing results in her own treatment, Sciandra wanted to do her part to ensure others could have access to the trial.
At the beginning, Paint Pittston Pink donated funds through the Pennies in Action fund. Now, after years of successful fundraising, the event committee is establishing its own fund to have more involvement in how the money they raise is used for cancer treatment and research. The effort has raised $330,000 in its first five years, with a $100,000 goal for this year
“We wanted to have more of a beat on where the money is going,” Sciandra said. “That’s something we’re really excited about.”
Sciandra has always remained involved in the Paint Pittston Pink events, even as her own treatment continues.
She recently received booster vaccines at The Moffitt Center in Tampa, Florida, to help her body continue to fight any new or lingering cancer cells. This was a planned part of her treatment and not due to a recurrence of the cancer or a change in her diagnosis.
“Knock on wood, it’s going really well,” she said.
Sciandra said a cancer diagnosis always changes a person, but she hopes that she has changed and grown for the better.
The response to Paint Pittston Pink over the years has certainly helped, she said.
“This whole experience is very humbling,” she said. “I hope that we are able to give other people who are going through something like this hope.”
Sciandra’s husband, Sal, and their three children have stood by her from the beginning. She said the kids in particular have grown up supporting Paint Pittston Pink, even when they were too young to fully understand their mother’s diagnosis and the reason for raising money.
“We’re very lucky to have them help us,” Sciandra said. “My husband and I try to teach our kids that it’s very important to volunteer, to use your time, your talent and your treasure to help.”
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month starts in October, Paint Pittston Pink will conclude this weekend with the 5K run that started it all. Sciandra has attended as many of this year’s fundraisers as she could, and hoped for a solid turnout for the final day.
“We’re hoping the weather cooperates and that it’s a great year,” she said.
When all is said and done, Sciandra said she will always have the Pittston community to thank for supporting her cause.
“Without the support of the community, this is something we wouldn’t be able to do,” she said. “We just feel so fortunate.”
Paint Pittston Pink culminates Saturday, Oct. 5, with a Mass at 9 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church, Pittston. The Color Me Pink 5K starts at 11 a.m. on Main Street, with the Caped CURE-Sader Family Fun Walk starting at 11:05. The Gentlemen’s Dash, featuring men racing in high heels to raise money from sponsors, begins at noon, followed at 12:30 p.m. by a new event, Hammer Out Cancer, where participants can take a hammer to a pink truck for a $10 donation.