Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:05 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Little warriors take on giant-sized battle

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Delilah Ferraro Harris, left, and Sophia Tricamo Park are co-captains of Team Puppies, the first kids' team and one of 18 teams in the 2011 Relay for Life of Homer, an activity benefiting the American Cancer Society. The event will be June 10-11 at the Homer High School track.

The determination in Delilah Ferraro Harris and Sophia Tricamo Park's eyes, the plan they've developed and the commitment they exude bring to mind the story of David and Goliath: small, determined fighting force slays opponent of gigantic proportions.

As co-captains of "Team Puppies," the youngest of 18 teams in the Relay For Life of Homer, an event benefiting the American Cancer Society, the girls — Delilah just completed first grade at Paul Banks Elementary School; Sophia just completed kindergarten at Fireweed Academy — are staring down the giant.

The devastating impact of cancer is all too familiar to the girls. One of Delilah's uncles is a cancer victim; another uncle, an aunt and her grandfather are cancer survivors. A close friend of Sophia's family is battling cancer and another lost the fight, as did Sophia's Uncle Jocko.

In 2010, as the girls were walking with Sophia's mother, Mary, around the Homer High School track where the relay was held, they were keenly aware of the lack of other participants their age.

"There really weren't many activities for kids, so we said if they do (Relay For Life) again next year, we would make it really great so a lot of our friends would come and play and we'd be able to raise money for the American Cancer Society," said Mary, who has played a behind-the-scene role, letting the two girls take the lead in developing the team.

Mary has carefully kept notes of the girls' ideas. As a member of South Peninsula Hospital's relay team, Delilah's mom, Derotha Ferraro, has modeled the organization, fundraising and time needed to create a team.

Dr. Vickey Hodnick, Sophia's dentist and family friend, is the team's sponsor.

"That means she gave the most money so she's the number one sponsor, and that means she gets her name on the back of the T-shirt and a sign on the fence (around the track) that says 'Team Puppies is Dr. Hodnick's sweet team,'" said Sophia.

"I wanted them to make a presentation, so one day Sophia came in with her mom and told me the story," said Hodnick. "It's just awesome. They're very organized and focused. I was impressed."

The girls have set two goals for themselves. One is to have the largest team in the Homer relay. To date, they have recruited 13 other youngsters in their age group.

The second goal, to raise $300, has already been met.

"Our goal now is to make the most in Homer and then that's going to be a nice gift to the American Cancer Society," said Delilah.

Financial support has come from friends, neighbors, family and church members. Delilah sent letters to all her classmates; Sophia did the same and posted a letter at school. Their door-to-door effort raised $185. The Homer Chamber of Commerce has donated, as have South Peninsula Hospital, Mermaid Bistro, Homer's Jeans, Fireweed Academy, Homer Brewing and Ulmer's Drug and Hardware. Even other team captains passed the hat when the girls announced they wanted to have a bouncy house at the relay, but needed additional funds to pay for it.

"Nobody has said no," said Delilah.

"Not a single soul," Sophia added.

Some donations, like a face-painting kit from Timeless Toys, have been items the team can use to raise more funds during the relay. Throughout the year, Sophia has been collecting toys from McDonald meals to create a kids' treasure hunt to be held during the relay. Sophia and Delilah also have secured a cotton candy machine so they can sell the feathery, swirled sugar to energize relayers while boosting their fundraising effort.

The relay begins at 6 p.m. June 10 and continues through the night, ending at 3 p.m. June 11. Tents will be set up around the track so exhausted relayers can take naps as needed. As co-captains, however, Delilah and Sophia plan to be available if their team needs them.

"I'm a night owl, so I'm going to stay up all night," said Delilah.

"Me, too," said Sophia, noting a light she has to help keep her from nodding off.

Marilyn Parrett, this year's relay event chair, said the goal for the 2011 Relay For Life of Homer is to raise $70,000 for research, programs and resources to help cancer patients and survivors. Opening ceremonies are at 6 p.m. June 10; the first lap is always dedicated to cancer survivors.

To date, 160 individuals have signed up for the 2011 relay in Homer, and more than $53,000 has been raised.

"We are moving along better than we were last year," said Parrett, who is being assisted by Jennifer McLay and Tammy Ackerman. A long list of event sponsors includes numerous local businesses. Live entertainment will be provided by marimba bands Rufaro and Zuva, Hobo Jim is scheduled to make an appearance and early on Saturday morning Maria Santa Lucia will revive tired relayers with a class in Zumba, Latin-inspired dance fitness.

Parrett, a breast cancer survivor, likened Relay For Life to being diagnosed with cancer.

"You start at the beginning when you find out. Then you go into this darkness, but you just keep going and going until you feel like you can't go on and you're alone. And then the sun begins to rise and you realize it's a new day. There's hope in that new day that we'll find a cure, that we're going to make it," said Parrett.

To become a member of or support Team Puppies, call Mary Tricamo Park at 299-5200. To support any of the Relay For Life of Homer teams, including Team Puppies, visit http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=entry&fr_id=33983.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.