Gavers barndance takes stage to fight cancer

WOODSTOCK – Under a large tent Saturday in Emricson Park, people browsed auction packages of Chicago Bears items and a trip to Las Vegas, among others. They also stepped into a photo booth, and ate some barbecue chicken and pork.

The 14th annual Gavers Community Cancer Foundation Barndance was expected to attract more than 2,500 people through the hay bale gates. Some of those who attended wore cowboy hats and boots.

Denise Graff Ponstein, vice president of the foundation, said she expected record attendance.

The Gavers Community Cancer Foundation has raised $4.9 million since 2000. Organizers expected to go over the $5 million mark Saturday.

Money raised during the benefit goes toward cancer awareness, education, treatment and research.

To help check for lung cancer, the foundation partnered this year with Centegra Health System to give about 50 free lung CAT scans to people who are 55 to 74 years old and are current or former heavy smokers.

Treatment is more successful when abnormalities are detected earlier, Graff Ponstein said.

"Most people are not getting detected until they're in stage 4, and that's tough," she said.

Organizers encouraged people to get themselves checked for cancer risks, and included a page in the program about different cancers and when and how to check for them.

"I think as a community, we need to work as a team to rid this disease, raise awareness and to raise funds for research," Graff Ponstein said.

Graff Ponstein said the group doesn't put a goal on how much to raise.

"Our goal is to get people to ... create awareness and get checked," she said. "The money that we raise, that's a bonus."

Steve Gavers, president of the foundation, is a testicular cancer survivor. He said the event is important to volunteers who plan it.

"It's one of the biggest things in our lives to put this on to help others," Gavers said.

Ken and Linda Konetski of Roscoe were in attendance. Linda Konetski is originally from Woodstock, and she still has family in the area. This was the couple's first time attending the barndance.

"The more support we can get for cancer research, the better for everyone," she said.

For more information about the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation, visit www.gavers.org.

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