Indiana, PA - Indiana County

MONDAY Q&A: Event aims to bag cancer, organizer says

on October 03, 2011 2:45 AM

Ryan Prasko, a manager at Giant Eagle in White Township, is on the committee that is planning the annual Grocers Fight Cancer event from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. This year, store owner Ed Bratton pledged that if $50,000 is raised, he'll donate another $50,000. Prasko recently spoke with Gazette staffer Bill Zimmerman about the fundraiser that has been benefiting the American Cancer Society for more than two decades.

Question: What is planned this year for Grocers Fight Cancer?

Answer: We have our normal raffle (basket) bash. … We also have different entertainment-type things. I know we're going to have a storyteller for the Eagle's Nest (child care area). … We have the Teddy Grahams character. … We'll have our normal hot dog stand outside selling hot dogs. … Michaels craft store is actually coming over and doing craft demonstrations for a period of time. We're having cooking demonstrations, too.

Question: How long have you been involved?

Answer: This is actually my first year on the committee, and then prior to that I usually helped set up for the event. At the old store, I'd be working that day, just helping out with the day's events, making sure things ran smoothly.

Question: What was your favorite part of past ones?

Answer: I would have to say, just the atmosphere and the store being busy, just like ... the people that you see in the store and the excitement and what it generates and whatnot.

Question: So this really creates a social event there?

Answer: Yeah, it's definitely a different atmosphere than like the normal day at the Indiana Giant Eagle, or a holiday or whatever. It's just a fun day, I always looked forward to it. It's a lot of work, yeah, but it turns out to always be a fun-filled day.

Question: What prompted you to play a part this year?

Answer: Actually, the store leader (Dennis Bray) asked me if I wanted to be a part of it. Like I said, I always helped in the past, and I think this year, it's kind of a little more important to me. I just recently lost a really close cousin to cancer, so it's kind of like a dedication to her.

Question: Can you relay a little about her experience?

Answer: It would be my mom's first cousin. She lived out of state and when she came in, she was always the one that came and hung out with us little cousins. … You just looked forward to her coming in. … She was always taking the pictures for family events, and then she just recently, within the last two years, found out she had cancer, and she just lost the battle this past summer. And the nice thing is she did come out, she got to visit Pennsylvania one more time before she passed away. ... It kind of touches home, I guess.

Question: So many people could say that, that in some way or another this has affected them.

Answer: Really, honestly, I think every family has someone or knows someone or somebody who's either won the battle or lost the battle.

Question: This will be the first Grocers Fight Cancer at the new Giant Eagle. How's that factor in?

Answer: It's actually kind of exciting that now we have the space to do some of these events that we're planning. Before it was kind of confined to the old store and to the space that we had, so this year we can actually make it a little bit bigger and better, and get events going and have the space to have the fun we couldn't really have in the past. … We want to do a Light Up the Night-type thing, kind of similar to what they do with the (luminaria) bags at the Relay for Life, so this past year we sold (luminaria) bags. They're actually brown bags to kind of represent a grocery bag, and we sold them at the register for a dollar donation and people either got to put "in honor of …" or in memory of …" and at night we want to kind of line up outside.

Question: What do you think makes the store the right place to host an event, not the building itself, but the staff and the attitude there?

Answer: I think it comes down that we're a family-run business, and it's, I think, the family atmosphere that we kind of became used to, accustomed to in the store. We're locally owned by Mr. Bratton and then his business partner, Bill McKillop, from Altoona. I think it's just the whole family atmosphere, that we kind of worked together as that family, as a team, to get this accomplished.

Question: How many Giant Eagle employees will be involved?

Answer: Well, there are actually four stores that are involved. It's Ebensburg, Altoona, Bedford and us, the four stores that they own together. So with all those employees -- I don't even know how many other employees they have at the other stores -- but here, we have like 150 employees. Now, not all of them are going to be working those days, but let's say a good amount with the four stores.

Question: How can somebody help the cause?

Answer: Come to the store that day and check out the events that are going on and even if you just buy a basket full of groceries, part of the entire sales for the day will go toward the American Cancer Society. ... The hot dog stand, you come and buy a hot dog at that, all the hot dogs were donated so that money goes to the American Cancer Society. (Also) buying raffle tickets. … Within the last 20 years, just the Indiana store raised about $425,000.

Question: That's pretty remarkable; what do you attribute that success to?

Answer: I think it's just a little bit of everything, like the people, the volunteers, the Giant Eagle team members, the store owners. I think it's just a matter of all that mixed together. I think it's what makes it successful. And I think the other thing is, Indiana is such a tight-knit community, so everyone knows about Grocers Fight Cancer Day in Indiana. People ask about it all the time, "Oh, when's Grocers Fight Cancer Day?" … It's a great cause to kind of bring awareness and help raise money to maybe eventually, as we would say here at the Indiana Giant Eagle, "bag cancer."

NEXT WEEK: Harrison Wick, the Special Collections librarian and university archivist at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do you know someone who would be a great subject for the Monday Q&A? If so, please call Jason Levan at (724) 465-5555, ext. 270.

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