By Matthew Hacke  |  Photographs by Frances Del Duca  |  On Location at Peoples Center

Each and every day, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) works tirelessly to find a cure for blood cancer.
Through raising funds for research and bringing awareness to this illness, the organization strives to help those in need. To aide in its efforts, every year across the country, the organization’s many chapters hold the LLS’ Man & Woman of the Year campaign.

Spirited and kindhearted individuals are nominated for the title, and spend 10 weeks raising money for LLS. Each dollar raised is counted as one vote for the title.

The group of nominees in the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter joined the campaign for different reasons, but are all working toward the same goal: to find a cure for cancer. We introduce this outstanding group of individuals before a winner is declared at the organization’s grand finale celebration on May 19.

Greg Unatin

Attorney at Meyers, Evans, Lupetin & Unatin

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I was first involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society around 2008 through its Team in Training program. I believe I came in 238th in the Race to Any Place, but #1 in individual fundraising!

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
It’s an honor to see people recognize so generously that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is an important organization to my family and me. 

Shannon Colamarino

Manager of Own Brands and Private Label for Giant Eagle Corporate

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I became involved with LLS a few years ago, however, I decided to run for MWOTY when a good friend’s son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at 3-years-old. Learning of his diagnosis last April led me to this campaign. I wanted to join the fight in honor of this special little boy, and am working relentlessly to support the fight and work toward a cure.

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
I can truly say that this is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had the honor of partaking in. LLS is an incredible organization that is making remarkable strides. The one aspect of this campaign that has been most rewarding is how open people have been in sharing their experiences and success stories. With every dollar that we raise, we ARE making a difference. The opportunity to be alongside my fellow candidates to raise money for a cure is something that I will always keep with me. This campaign is 10-weeks-long, however, my commitment to LLS will remain.

“My husband, Dave, and my sons have been a huge support system. I am a very proud mom of two amazing boys, and have included them in my campaign run. My 8-year-old is an avid hockey fan, and is doing his part in supporting our fundraising efforts by selling his ‘custom’ drawings of hockey rinks and players. Seeing his excitement when he sells a drawing for a donation is humbling, as he is so motivated to help the cause!”

Kelsie Nury

Nanny

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I got involved in 2014 when my friend, Erin, ran and won Woman of the Year!  After that, my grandmother and cousin both battled Leukemia and Lymphoma and that encouraged me to join the campaign here in 2018. 

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
Watching my family members winning their battles encouraged me to raise funds to help others do the same.  Being able to run in 2018 has been an honor.  I have met so many people along the way who appreciate everything LLS does and that makes this campaign worth everything!  Always remember to do good things! 

Chandler Carranza

 

Division Director of Control States for Ole Smoky Distillery, LLC.

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
In my previous job, I helped support LLS Pineapple 5k and sampled at the event  I have known many members of the LLS team, some for literally my entire life.

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
It’s quiet an honor to be nominated and help fundraise for a cause that hits home to me.  I have had a number of family and friends affected by cancer and this is my way to help those that mean the most to me.

Elena C. Nola

Corporate Counsel at MSA Safety Inc.

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I was nominated for Woman of the Year by a close friend of mine, Jayme Butcher, who was crowned The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s 2017 Woman of the Year.

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
For nearly two years, my uncle, my best friend, and the man who raised me to be the woman I am today, battled lymphoma. It was the most courageous fight that I have ever personally witnessed and one that I will never forget.

During my freshman year of college at Duquesne University, my uncle was diagnosed with lymphoma. Just 23-months after his diagnosis, and 5-months before my college graduation, my uncle passed away. 

For those 23-months, I watched as his entire body was physically invaded and victimized by lymphoma.  He was pricked and poked with needles, suffered through chemotherapy and radiation treatments, gained weight, lost his hair and sense of taste, developed neuropathy, and became immunocompromised and was prohibited from going to public places. He underwent surgeries and invasive testing and was put on, and eventually taken off of, life-support. 

This blood cancer, without caution, permission or apology, took control of his life and the lives of everyone who loved and cared for him. It was unstoppable and merciless.   

I wish I could tell you that my uncle was the victor in his battle, but unfortunately, I can’t. What I can tell you is this: it’s been nearly a decade since my uncle’s passing in 2008. and this campaign has become the “silver lining” to one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. I am blessed to have been raised by my uncle for the first 21 years of my life and I am extremely fortunate to have had the support of family and friends.

I’m proudly joining the fight against blood cancers to provide strength and support each person, family, and community that has been, is, or will be affected by blood cancer.  I’m proudly joining the fight against blood cancer with the hope that I will have contributed to finding a cure to blood cancers in my lifetime. I’m proudly joining the fight against blood cancer in memory of my Uncle, Anthony W. Shee, who truly taught me what it means to live with courage. If not for him, I would not be the person I am today.

Nicole Conti

 

Talent Acquisition & Retention Coordinator at Pressley Ridge

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I became involved with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in the fall of 2016, shortly after my father was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma.  My mom and I wanted to get involved and we participated in the Light the Night Walk.  After that event, I knew that I wanted to stay connected and close to LLS and what they were doing.

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
Being a 2018 candidate for Man & Woman of the Year means more to me than I could ever put into words. This is my chance to fight for something really hard, just like all of the cancer patients out there do on a daily basis. I watched my father fight for 4 long months and then ultimately pass. I’m doing this for him. He got a phone call one day in July of 2016 and was told that he needed to come to the hospital right away to begin treatment.  With one phone call, his entire life changed — our whole family’s life changed. I wanted to do something to give back to those who don’t have a choice but to fight day in and day out. This opportunity has allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and do things that I never would have done before. I’ve also had the chance to meet some really amazing people along the way. I can’t change what the outcome was for my father and my family, but what I can do is help to create change for others moving forward.

Jacqueline Ziemianski

Manager of Corporate Relations for Peoples Natural Gas

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I served on the Light The Night Executive Committee, as well as been the Peoples Corporate Team Captain for 8 years. So, I am very excited to take on a new challenge with a new LLS campaign!

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year? I’ve been working closely with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for over 8 years now and have met so many wonderful people that have been affected by this cancer and  I am dedicating my efforts on behalf of them! We are going to keep fighting to raise awareness and funding for research until there is a cure.

Terry Gessler Hart

Retired Technology Teacher at South Fayette High School, Past School Board Director for the Peters Township School District, Active Volunteer at Lake Latonka

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
My son-in-law, Dave Russo, nominated me as a candidate for the MWOY. Dave became involved in LLS after his brother Pat, at age 25, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Pat survived because of medical advances made possible by organizations like LLS. Unfortunately, Pat wasn’t the only one close to me who had been stricken. Too many other relatives had to endure the shock, the sleepless nights, and the pain of blood cancer. So much for them to bear! When at times I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this campaign, I am inspired by the magnitude of their strength as they fight to stay alive.

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
I still struggle with the word “honor” because I don’t feel deserving.  Although others had faith in me, I didn’t feel capable of raising thousands of dollars even though I believed in the LLS mission. I needed divine intervention. I received it in the form of perspective: “Asking for donations is not difficult. PICC lines, nausea, waiting for test results, and coping with the uncertainty of tomorrow – that is difficult.” I keep that in mind when reaching out to family and friends and people I barely know. I also receive divine intervention in the form of tiny miracles. A chance meeting, an unexpected phone call, and other “coincidences” regularly occur. Plus, what a blessing to have so many others (including my husband, children and bonus children) willing to volunteer on behalf of LLS and my campaign!  So, really, any “honor” goes to Him and all members of TEAM HART! 

Tom Hanna

Account Manager for Advent Communication Systems

How did you get involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society?
I got involved in memory of my Pap, who passed away in 2007, after a long, seven year battle with multiple myeloma. I hope to make him proud.

What does the honor mean to you as a candidate for LLS 2018 Man & Woman of the Year?
I am excited to take part in this fundraising effort to help raise funds for blood cancer research. 

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