Campout, Scrabble events to benefit Cancer Connection

  • Nancy Thompson of Connecticut, walks back toward her seat after talking with Monte Belmonte about what the Cancer Connection has meant to her at the Cancer Connection Camp-in held at the Hotel Northampton in February 2017.  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 2/26/2019 10:51:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Two fundraising events take place this week to support Cancer Connection, a local organization dedicated to providing resources for patients and families struggling with cancer.

WRSI radio personality Monte Belmonte will host his 13th annual Cancer Connection Campout fundraiser on Wednesday and Thursday. This year, Belmonte’s group has organized the event around the theme, “Winter is Camping,” a take on Game of Thrones.

The radio station will broadcast from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and continue Thursday from 6 a.m. until around 10 a.m. in order to raise as much money as possible.

Organizers are expecting more than 20 campers to attend the event. Each campsite on the courthouse lawn fundraise on their own and has a goal of raising $1000.

Throughout the years, the event has raised over $500,000 for Cancer Connection. Belmonte says there is no definite fundraising goal, but if $100,000 is reached on the first day, he will be sleeping inside.

“I would pay $1000 not to camp,” joked Belmonte who is open about his hatred for sleeping outside in the winter.

But he remains dedicated to the cause. There are donation opportunities at the event, over a hotline and online. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than $33,000 had been raised through the Cancer Connection’s website.

Anna-Beth Winograd works in community relations at Cancer Connection and will be camping out Wednesday night at the event.

“I could be here all day talking about all the ways Monte has benefitted out center,” Winograd said. “I also want to be very clear that the money is essential, but the other thing that this Campout has done is really raise awareness about Cancer Connection in the wider community.”

Winograd said there is an increase in awareness about the numerous free services Cancer Connection provides after the Campout every year.

“He is helping us with one of the most important things here which is that anyone who needs our services knows about us and is able to fund us,” Winograd said. “Monte is a treasure for us in the community.”

Belmonte is offering many incentives to donate, including entertainment throughout the event with everything from poetry readings, to a visit from The Smithereens, a Smith College a capella group. The Girl Scouts of Western Massachusetts will be attending to make s’mores and the radio station will be offering tickets to listeners.

Some local businesses have pledged matching donations. The largest as of Tuesday is a $10,000 match from Greenfield Savings Bank.

“There are not many organizations like Cancer Connection,” Belmonte said. “It is more about living with cancer, reminding you of your own humanity through this difficult time. It is not just for the person with cancer but the people around them too.”

Scrabble event

Another upcoming event that raises money for Cancer Connection is The Northampton Scrabble Club’s 2nd Annual Charity Scrabble Event which will be held at American Legion Hall on Saturday.

Advertised as a social gathering to benefit three local charities, the event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and all proceeds will benefit Cancer Connection, the Northampton Survival Center, Climate Action Now.

“We wanted causes that were different, but all good,” said Shelly Berkowitz, a member of the Northampton Scrabble Club. “Each one of these has a different focus.”

The club has set a sliding scale donation of between $10 and $40. At the event, the Scrabble Club will host auctions and raffles to raise money for the organizations.

“Last year it was really fantastic because it was fun, it was not a competitive event for, you know Scrabble geeks,” she said.

The event is open to all ages and last year raised $1,800.

“They had tons of great raffle prizes,” said Chantal Dupuis, the event coordinator for Cancer Connection. “They encourage donations, but just want people to come down and have fun.”

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