September 28, 2013

TRAVIS LAZARCZYK: No one fights alone

By Travis Lazarczyk tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

Rick York had a rule for the Skowhegan Area High School baseball team. No one wears any jewelry. No necklaces, earrings, bracelets of any kind. On the second day of practice last season, York noticed the purple bracelet on the wrist of then-sophomore Trey Michonski, he pointed out the rule.

It's for my dad, Michonski said, and he showed York the plastic bracelet's inscription. "No one fights alone." Michonski's father, Brian, was just a few months into his battle against pancreatic cancer.

York considered his rule, and tossed it aside. The rest of the team began wearing the bracelet, too.

"My dad's a (cancer) survivor. When I was in college, that's how I got through it, with my teammates behind me," York said.

On Saturday morning in downtown Skowhegan, hundreds of people turned out to be a member of Team Michonski. More than 400 people took part, either running or walking, in the No One Fights Alone 5K.

Pancreatic cancer is a particularly evil cancer. By the time it's detected, it's often too late. According to information from the Lustgarten Foundation, a group working for research into pancreatic cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention, pancreatic cancer claims the lives of 33,000 Americans each year and has just a five percent, five year survival rate.

Brian Michonski was diagnosed in January.

"We're taking it one day at a time," Melissa Michonski, Brian's wife, said. Melissa scanned the parking lot full of people, ready to run or walk for her husband. The Skowhegan Area High School athletic teams participated en masse, some wearing their jerseys.

"Oh my word. This is amazing," Melissa said. "This is more than I could have asked for."

She shouldn't have been surprised. A lifelong resident of the Skowhegan area, Brian Michonski has impacted lives in the city for years. He coached youth ice hockey and baseball for years, as his sons Gradey and Trey came up through the programs. He's a partner in Michonski Brothers Masonry.

"He's a fantastic guy," York said. "With the turnout today, you know the community thinks a lot about Brian and his family."

The No One Fights Alone 5K came together with a month of planning, and was scheduled for Saturday to coincide with a Pan Can event in Boston. Many at the Skowhegan race, including the Michonskis, wore purple, the color used to symbolize the fight against pancreatic cancer. There was a bake sale, and prizes were raffled off, but most of all, there was the race.

As runners waited to go, just after 9 a.m., race starter Tim Alberts stepped to the starting line and apologized for the delay. Some participants arrived late and had to register. As if raising more money was something for which to apologize.

The goal was to raise $5,000 for pancreatic cancer research, Melissa Michonski said. Again, she glanced around at all the people, and at her husband, who stood with friends about 10 feet away.

"I think we're going to exceed that," she said. "I hope Skowhegan is ready for this."

Skowhegan was ready. No one fights alone. This community makes sure of that.

Travis Lazarczyk -- 861-9242

tlazarczyk@centralmaine.com

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