Saturday's Polar Bear Jump at Camden Falls attracted 129 participants and hundreds of spectators. One of the organizers, Adam Smith, estimated the 2012 event raised about $10,000 for Financial Assistance for Cancer Treatment.
The crowd included many family members whose loved ones had survived, succumbed or continue to struggle with cancer.
Bob Scaife, the oldest person to jump in 2012 (75), also brought his son, Craig, and grandson, Roland, as participants.
Bob said he has a non-aggressive form of cancer in his lymph nodes. His doctor has been monitoring the size of the glands and Bob's white blood cell count, but no other treatment has been necessary.
Bob said he travels to Michigan for check-ups, and the travel expenses can add up. He was pleased to be able to contribute to F.A.C.T.
"It's a wonderful cause, and I encourage people I know with cancer to learn about the program," he said.
This year's benefit featured a guest speaker, Heidelberg student Hannah Mathias, who spoke on behalf of her mother, Sandy Mathias, a breast cancer survivor.
"A typical Sunday in mid-September" was the day Sandy mentioned a lump in her breast to her daughter. Sandy had scheduled surgery at Ohio State University James Cancer Center in Columbus to remove the growth.
"At first I was in shock. ... but then I was scared. Nothing like this had ever happened to our family, and I didn't know what to expect," Hannah said.
Her grandmother and parents left the day before the surgery, but Hannah and her brother stayed home to attend classes, football practice and Hannah's musical rehearsal at Heidelberg. While informing her director she could not attend a weekend rehearsal, she became emotional when he asked why.
"I had to explain that I was to visit my mom in the hospital after her breast cancer surgery. I cried in front of the entire cast and two of my professors as well," Hannah recalled.
A phone call from her grandmother informed the siblings the surgery had gone well and the doctors were to spend the next day doing reconstruction procedures.
Sandy was able to talk to her offspring on the phone and ask how they were doing. A few days later, she was home resuming as many normal activities as she could manage, in spite of her pain.
"She had always been more concerned about us than herself, but this time, it was my mom's turn to be first, whether she liked it or not," Hannah said. "Throughout the whole experience, I'm still convinced that what actually hurt her most was not her surgery, but missing my little brother's football game."
Chemotherapy was begun
for Sandy. After the first few treatments, she lost her hair and wore some "awesome hats" to cover her head.
Hannah said she remembered her mother's optimism and good humor during the ordeal. Sandy even suggested calling Hannah's speech "The Year My Mom Went Bald."
Support from family and friends showed up in the form of multiple flower arrangements, cards, phone calls, visits and plates of food, some of which are still in the freezer.
The Mathias family was especially grateful to FACT for the funds the agency provided to offset the cost of travel and other expenses incurred because of the cancer treatments.
"When you or someone in your family is sick, your primary focus is to get them healthy. Money shouldn't be the reason people don't receive treatment, nor should it be a large burden placed on families that went through what I did. People come first, especially when it comes to health. FACT understands this, and we are so lucky to have had their help," Hannah said.