Grief can be immobilizing, but Hempfield resident Don Denlinger has used the loss of multiple loved ones to fuel his participation in Relay For Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
"I lost my mother, sister, (and) several beloved aunts and uncles and cousins to this dreaded disease, as well as some good friends and co-workers," Denlinger wrote in his personal appeal letters. "I feel a need to do more than just complain and feel sorry for myself, and I want to do something to stop this terrible loss, so I Relay."
Denlinger is a member of Team Oz, which participates in the Relay For Life of Lancaster. His teammates have similar stories to tell. Jeff Wiker of Strasburg has had minor occurrences of skin cancer, but it was a friend's diagnosis that inspired him to get involved in 2001. Team Oz has been around for 23 years, but it existed under the name of a business for the first 15 years. When the business closed, the team chose a new moniker.
"Let's go see the Wizard for a cure for cancer," Wiker said, explaining the name.
Team Oz is a successful group. Last year's fundraising total of $46,000 was good enough for third place among all the other teams at the Lancaster Relay, which is the third-largest event of its kind in the United States. In addition to personal appeals like Denlinger's, the team hosts dances, bus trips, and food sales throughout the year. The group will host a chili cookoff on Saturday, May 20, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the pavilion at the Millersville VFW, 219 Walnut Hill Road, Millersville.
This is the first time hosting an event of this kind, but the team hopes to make it an annual event.
"We're always looking for new ideas for fundraisers," said team member Dana Stauffer of Lititz.
The cookoff is open to the public, both as contestants and as diners. Contestants must prepare enough chili to fill a 5-quart slow cooker that they will bring to the event at 5:30 p.m. Power outlets will be available. "Pretty much anything goes" is the way Stauffer described the guidelines for the chili. Three judges will determine which entries receive the prizes for most creative, best tasting, and "tongue burner." Attendees may vote with cash for their favorite. The chili that draws the most money will be awarded the "Purple Spoon" people's choice award.
Separate prices for admission have been set for children and for adults, and only 200 tickets are available, based on the number of contestants. Additional tickets will be made available when more cooks sign up to compete. Diners will have access to chili, toppings, and sides, as well as hot dogs and desserts. A variety of beverages will be included.
Music will be played during the event, and there will be a silent auction for gift cards, handmade toys, and other items. The team will also provide opportunities to enter drawings that will be held during the Relay event in June for a 50-inch television, a coffeemaker, a purple stand mixer, and a sturdy wooden rocking horse made by Denlinger.
Folks interested in attending the chili cookoff may buy tickets from any Team Oz member or email event chair Maddie Ditzler at email@example.com. Chili cooks should also contact Ditzler to register to compete. More information is available on the team's Facebook page, which may be found by searching for "Team Oz - Relay For Life of Lancaster PA."
In addition to Denlinger, Stauffer, Ditzler, and Wiker, Team Oz includes team captain Cheryl Campbell and her husband, Barry, of Centerville; Stauffer's husband, Bob, and their 5-year-old son, Timmy; Wiker's wife, Wanda; Scott Tobler of Lititz; Scott Stauffer and his son, Steven, of Lititz; Memie Whiteside and her children, Eliot and Evelyn, of Wrightsville; Brian and Beth Lock of Harrisburg; and Terry Ditzler and Jamy Ditzler of Lancaster. Terry Ditzler was the founder of the Lancaster Relay, Jeff Wiker noted.
"We are a hardworking team," Wiker said. "We all do this for the cause."