A Cambria County family helped to clear a path for Santa Claus during the annual Christmas parade in Johnstown on Friday evening.
Michael and Cozette Hupkovich and their son, Brock, all of Salix, were among volunteers who guided runners and walkers along downtown streets during the Great Santa Run, an event that starts the Christmas parade in downtown Johnstown.
The Great Santa Run raises money to help local families battling cancer. The event is held by Wings of Hope, a Hooversville-based charity.
“We had a good night other than the rain,” said Cozette Hupkovich after the parade. “We had a lot of runners, and they all got Santa Claus hats to wear.”
The Hupkoviches and other volunteers were stationed at various intersections to make sure runners and walkers were headed in the correct direction and not having any physical problems.
Cozette Hupkovich said the trio also helps with the Wings of Hope benefit race in the spring.
She said they became involved with Wings of Hope after one of their grandsons, Lance, 7, son of Brent and Christine Hupkovich of Pittsburgh, was diagnosed in 2010 with a brain-stem tumor and an optic-nerve tumor.
“At that time, Wings of Hope heard about it and donated the money raised during the walk to Lance,” said Cozette Hupkovich, a retired office manager for a number of physicians.
She said they then become volunteers with Wings of Hope and saw firsthand the generosity of people.
Lance is now doing well, she said.
Michael Hupkovich said during the first time they helped with a Wings of Hope event, they were able to watch the organization present donations to victims of cancer.
“The monetary donations help with the various expenses that they may not have been able to afford otherwise,” he said. “That’s why we keep going every year.”
All the volunteers and runners and participants are enthusiastic about helping others, said the chemical analyst for Johnstown Regional Sewage.
Brock Hupkovich said the Great Santa Run attracts plenty of runners and walkers each year.
“It’s a really good kickoff event for the parade,” he said. “It brings in people who otherwise may not come to the parade.”
The event also is good way for families battling cancer to support each other, he said.
“Johnstown is a great community to find support and lend support,” said Brock Hupkovich, an employee in the human resources department at MetLife in Richland Township.
For their efforts, the three are the Persons of the Week.
Tina Honkus, founder of Wings of Hope, said the organization has raised about $30,000 in the seven years that it has been in existence.
“Brock and his parents have been very supportive of Wings of Hope,” she said. “They really have made this a family event. Brock’s wife (Dianna) joins us for the actual run and brings a few of her friends as well.”
In addition, the organization has received tremendous support from the community, she said.
The event could not happen without all the volunteers, including the ones on the event committee – Susan Stepp, Brenda Burnosky, Tammy Moore, Denise Boyer and Jennifer Smindak.
Brock and his wife have a son, Alek. Brent and his wife also have a daughter, Olivia.
Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day. Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.