Riverside High School students make caring a business

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When Riverside High School relief pitcher Jason Pettner walked to the mound Monday, he wasn't just hoping to defeat arch-rival Ellwood City.

Jason is part of a campaign of Riverside students, faculty and staff who are raising money and awareness for cancer care and research in honor of teacher Glen Hall, who has been diagnosed with a blood cancer, multiple myeloma.

The Riverside High School community is using athletic prowess and marketing skills to achieve their goals. So far they've raised nearly $9,000 for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Mr. Hall's charity-of-choice, and fund raisers are still under way.

On the varsity baseball team, Jason, a junior, does double duty as a third baseman and a pitcher. Late in the game Monday he was called in as relief pitcher and was credited with the win in the 7-6 victory over Ellwood City.

The campaign started with the sports marketing class taught by Ron Saul. Students split into groups to promote the Riverside-Ellwood City baseball game and next Thursday's volleyball tournament. Students in the class elected Jason Pettner as CEO. Twitter and other social media are utilized.

Then things started snowballing. Thirteen teachers ran in Pittsburgh Marathon races Sunday and student Sara Sutter is organizing the June 1 "G. Hall's Cancer Crushing 5K Run & Fun Walk."

Mr. Hall has been a teacher for 24 years, including the last 10 years at Riverside where he teaches classes in government, psychology and economics.

"I am so humbled by the support from students, former students, staff and the community," Mr. Hall said. "I am so very blessed to be at this school district. It's such a caring atmosphere."

Last year for his 50th birthday, Mr. Hall successfully ran in his first half-marathon.

"I didn't know it at the time, but I already had cancer," he said.

About a month after the race, he started having chest pains and by October he also was experiencing pains in his back. Despite repeated blood tests and visits to doctors, he didn't get the diagnosis until November.

"I am maintaining a positive attitude," Mr. Hall said. "It's a coping process. I worry more about my family." On days when he is not having chemotherapy treatments, Mr. Hall continues to teach his classes because he loves his students and loves his job.

He has his treatment at the Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers at the Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute in Pittsburgh.

He has high praise for the staff and the facilities. On Sunday, Mr. Hall was in Pittsburgh, cheering on his co-workers. Three ran the half marathon, finishing in 2 hours and 28 minutes -- Mr. Saul, Michael Houston and Marie DuFalla. Mr. Saul, 33, had never run a half marathon, though he played basketball in high school and college and he coaches basketball at Beaver Area High School.

The head basketball coach at Beaver Area, Andrew Podbielski, was a member of the teacher relay team that finished in 4 hours, 12 minutes, 44 seconds: Laura Cipriano, Brian Churovia, Ben Huth and Bill Knab. The other relay finished in 4 hours, 42 minutes, 54 seconds: Chelsea Kordecki, Nancy Altsman, Alicia Dwyer, Meg Frank and Geri Lynn Cummings.

Sports marketing students have split into "departments" -- human resources, finance, marketing and business information "and are given tasks similar to running minor league baseball promotions," Mr. Saul said. "Students voted for managers and elected their CEO.

Their grade is based on individual efforts and the ability of the class to work as a group to meet their objectives."

By this week, the 15 students had wooed 36 corporate sponsors who contributed $4,500 for the baseball game, volleyball tournament and 5K race, Jason said. The marathon teachers raised $4,200. T-shirt sales and concessions at the baseball game raised $500. Students are now selling raffle tickets for a hockey stick autographed by Mario Lemiuex and four Pirates tickets.

Sara Sutter, who is organizing the 5 K race for June 1, said Mr. Hall is her government teacher "and he is awesome. He is so positive all the time. He is one of the teachers who is there whenever you need him."

The flat course will travel Country Club Drive at the Riverside School. Sign in will take place at the kindergarten cafeteria. Entry fee is $15. May 18 is the advance registration deadline, which guarantees a T-shirt to runners and walkers. Same day registration is 8 a.m. The walk is at 9 and the run starts at 10.

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Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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