When Penn State assistant track and field coach Fritz Spence was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in 2008, medical treatment was upon him. With that treatment came expenses.
Luckily, his family was approved for funding through the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund. His wife, Teri, said it would have been “ financially devastating” if it weren’t for help from the fund. Subsequently, Spence beat his first bout with cancer five years ago. However, he was diagnosed with AML again in July.
Bellefonte resident Brian Clarkson was only 29 when he was diagnosed with cancer. According to the Bob Perks Fund website, the fund helped his family with household bills and other expenses while Clarkson was being treated at Geisinger Medical Center.
To continue to help fund cancer families financially, the eighth annual Bob Perks Fund Tailgate Party will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at Mountain View Country Club near Boalsburg.
The fund is named after Bob Perks, who died in 2005 from cancer after battling the disease for more than two years, said Executive Director Norma Keller. Perks was a founding member of the local Coaches vs. Cancer organization and was invested in giving back to the community, as he was also a Penn State graduate and Nittany Lion fan.
Perks’ wife, Doreen, started the fund in memory of her husband in 2006. The fund has raised more than $803,000 for 208 families, she said. Perks hopes this year’s tailgate party will raise $40,000.
Families must apply for the Bob Perks Fund and are given assistance based on eligibility. Perks added that since the group’s inception through last year, 772 applications for funding have been filled. In 2013 alone, 214 applications have been filled.
“It seems like we’re growing exponentially,” Perks said. “I think we’ve come to a point where we’re seeing a large upswing in our growth, and we want to be there to help someone with their needs and prepare for the future.”
At the party, attendees can watch the Penn State football game against Ohio State at 8 p.m. There will be food, drinks and a silent auction.
Last year’s event drew 180 people, Keller said. She hopes to top that number this year.
“Lots of families are impacted by cancer each year, and are unable to meet financial needs and other day-to-day expenses,” Keller said. “That’s where we can come in and help if necessary.”
In the first year, Keller said, the Bob Perks Fund raised $16,000. Now, she said, the annual fundraising totals are around $160,000. Assistance is available to people in Centre, Blair, Clearfield and Huntingdon counties based on eligibility.
While the tailgate party is called the fund’s premier fundraising event, other fundraisers include a Rock the ’80s event that is held during the winter and the Ronan Tynan Benefit Concert at the State Theatre on Nov. 8.
For more information, visit www.bobperkscancerassistancefund.org.
Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.