PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – For the last seven years Port Chester’s Lael Porcelli has run marathons, sprint triathlons and sold lemonade to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and honor her niece, Katie Smercak, who was successfully treated for leukemia at the age of five.
Now 16 years old and nine years cancer free, Smercak, a Tarrytown resident, will run alongside Porcelli for the first time in the Nike half-marathon in San Francisco in October. Like all of the runs Porcelli has done, this will be for LLS’s endurance sports training program, Team in Training.
“Finally she’s old enough to be doing it with us and we’ll be crossing the finish line with us,” Porcelli said, adding that you get a Tiffany necklace instead of a medal at the finish line. “We’re kind of crazy excited about it.”
Team in Training members get free training to run endurance events and, in exchange, must raise money for the LLS. Porcelli became a Team in Training run mentor in 2009 and has raised $31,000 through events, including: two sprint triathlons; 10 half marathons; and two Hudson River Swim for Life events.
She did all of these in Smercak’s honor.
Porcelli’s family has also raised $17,700 through its annual Lemonade for Leukemia fundraiser, which they started after Smercak was diagnosed 11 years ago. Lemonade is 50 cents and many local businesses contribute food and raffles, which also benefits the LLS.
“We were trying to think of a way we could help because we felt so helpless,” she said. “And my son came up with the idea to sell lemonade and have the money go to the cause.”
Their stand raised $200 the first year and $4,400 the last two, and the Port Chester mother of two said she hopes to hit $5,000 at this year’s fundraiser Aug. 9 from noon to 4 p.m. at 38 Hobart Ave. in Port Chester.
This year, they plan to hold "pop-up lemonade stands" at festivals, starting with Tarrytown's third Friday events.
In addition to Smercak, the lemonade sale honors someone who has died or is going through treatment. This year’s honoree is Steve Hirsch, of New City, Rockland. He beat follicular non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He relapsed this past April and is going through chemotherapy treatment and plans to have a stem cell transplant later this summer.
“The fact that they do this every year to raise money for research for lymphoma and leukemia really means a ton, because this is how we’re going to hopefully cure this disease by funding research,” he said.