Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 17, 2013

Virtual team: Falls soldiers in Afghanistan 'join' Saturday's Relay for Life

Falls soldiers in Afghanistan 'join' Saturday's Relay for Life on Old Falls Street

Niagara Gazette — A group of hometown troops stationed in Afghanistan will participate “virtually” in the Niagara Falls Relay for Life on Saturday, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.

Two local airmen, who have family members leading Saturday’s event on Old Falls Street, will be holding a fundraising barbecue along with weightlifting and ping pong competitions among their fellow soldiers and the plan is to have a video screen erected so those participating in the relay in Niagara Falls can see the event being held overseas.

Airman Patrick Little, whose mom is a cancer survivor and whose family has participated in a relay every year since his grandfather’s cancer diagnosis 13 years ago, is planning the event through his sister, Kristina Groff, who now works at the American Cancer Society as special events manager.

He was already in Afghanistan with his unit from the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station’s 107th Airlift Wing when he learned a fellow airman, Cierra Edwards of Niagara Falls, was the daughter of one of his sister’s top volunteers. It was then the two came up with a plan to hold a “mini” relay on base.

The pair, halfway through their tour and stationed at Camp Bastion — in an area of the country that Little, due to security reasons could not say —are looking forward to the relay, which will include Italian sausage, as well as hot dogs and hamburgers a friend of a friend sent from Germany.

“We actually started just by wanting to fund raise,” Little said during a telephone interview, taking a break from his night shift as an air transportation worker . “Then we realized we could take it a step further and put on our own event here.”

Edwards’ mom, Margie Lengen, is a year-round fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Her team, Jack and Jill, has raised nearly $2,000 for the relay, and Cierra is inspired by her mother’s efforts, as she wrote in an email to the Gazette. “I swear, sometimes it’s like every other weekend she has a meeting for an event the American Cancer Society is having! Whenever they’re looking for a volunteer for an event — they always count on my mom to be there! 

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