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Assembly kicks off cancer fundraising efforts

Jan. 23—ORWELL — Arch-rivals joined together Monday morning to help battle childhood cancer during an assembly at Grand Valley High School.

Students form the Pymatuning Valley Local Schools ventured to Grand Valley to hear the story of Champion High School senior Skylar Scarnecchia, who lost a leg to cancer but is heading to the University of Alabama, with a full scholarship, to play wheelchair basketball.

The assembly kicked off this year's fundraising campaign started by freshmen Jocelyn Cozad and Violet Morse when they were in third grade. The two girls said they were excited that their efforts have multiplied and now include a second school district.

"It is kind of hard to believe," Cozad said.

Morse said the 2024 goal is to raise $6,050, and get more students involved in the project. The funds will be donated to the Children's Cancer Research Foundation, said Grand Valley High School Principal Roberta Cozad.

She said there are a number of ways for students of all grades to participate in the fundraiser, and Jocelyn Cozad and Morse also seek donations from area businesses.

The Pymatuning Area Local Schools got involved in the project last year through the middle school, and the senior high school is now involved as well, said PV Middle School Principal Wendy Tisch and PV High School principal Mark Mollohan.

Jocelyn Cozad said Scarnecchia is someone to look up to, after taking something awful and turning it positive through hard work and determination.

Students from the GV high and middle schools attended the assembly first, and elementary students attended later in the morning.

As a 10-year old, Scarnecchia found out she had stage four carcinoma and doctors decided amputation of her leg was the best way to save her life.

She said she was scared she would never run or jump again, and didn't want to look at her leg after the amputation. She said she also had to undergo chemotherapy as well.

"It was a vigorous journey. I lost my hair. I got sick all the time," she told the students as a silence fell over the gymnasium.

"As a 10-year old, my life flipped," she said.

After the amputation, Scarnecchia made a life-changing decision. "I decided I am going to use [the challenging circumstances] for good ... to be what I'm meant to be," she said.

"I wanted to get back on the court," Scarnecchia said of her love of basketball. She was fitted with numerous prothesis, for a variety of tasks, and played basketball until she was 15.

At that point she was offered the opportunity to play wheelchair basketball, and her life changed again.

"I have the opportunity to go to the University of Alabama on a full ride to play wheelchair basketball," she said. She showed the students the numerous prosthesis she uses to run, swim, play golf or wear high heels.

Scarnecchia urged the students to give a dollar a day to help others, as well as students in their district fighting cancer.

Logan Zirzow, a senior at Grand Valley, was diagnosed with cancer in August, and is back in school after an arduous treatment process. Scarnecchia asked the students to get involved in fighting children's cancer to help Zirzow and all of the other children battling cancer.

She also urged the students to have determination in all they do.

Students from the Pymatuning Valley High School student council and students from the middle school's Project Love attended the event.

Tisch said the school district has had several students battling cancer.

"Our kids like to support good causes," she said.

Roberta Cozad said the fundraising efforts will continue until the goal is met. She said people may donate through the website link here.