The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 15, 2014

AAABA team backs ovarian cancer awareness

JOHNSTOWN — Michael B. Smith was touched by the teal hats, wristbands and warmup T-shirts Laurel Auto Group players wore as a tribute to Smith’s late wife and her legacy of cancer awareness.

“This was a surprise to us that they came out to honor her and honor women with ovarian cancer,” Smith said Tuesday at Point Stadium before Laurel’s AAABA League game with Ophthalmic Associates.

“They all have sisters and moms and girlfriends and future wives. They realize it’s very important information to my whole family and the whole company.”

Ann Harris Smith was 53 when she died from ovarian cancer in August 2002, but not before she founded the Laurel Auto Group Charity Golf Tournament to raise awareness of gynecological cancers.

The 14th annual pro-am tournament will tee off Monday at Sunnehanna Country Club. PGA pro Mark Pfeil will be on hand to give clinics on the short game.

“It’s the only pro-am that’s held in this area,” Michael Smith said.

“It’s a wonderful event. It has raised over a half-million dollars.”

Funds raised by the tournament are used to sponsor awareness events that feature survivor stories, Smith said. Instead of a guest speaker, this year’s tournament dinner will feature a video produced during seven events in the past year.

Team General Manager Casey Craig said players came up with Tuesday’s tribute as a way to honor the Smith family’s commitment to cancer awareness.

Smith took the opportunity to continue Ann’s legacy, Craig said.

While thanking the team before its game, Smith went on to stress the importance of knowing symptoms of cancer.

“What he did was educate the players about why the family and the Laurel Auto group have so much passion for battling cancer,” Craig said.

The color teal was selected because it is used by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to call attention to the disease, which is expected to take more than 15,000 women’s lives this year.

Although treatable in its early stages, there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer. Therefore, most cancer is diagnosed in later stages, leading to an overall 5-year survival rate of less than 50 percent.

Symptoms include swelling of the stomach, sudden weight gain or bloating, persistent pelvic or abdominal pain or pressure, trouble eating or feeling full quickly and feeling the need to urinate urgently or often.

Ann Smith had no early warning, her husband said. A kindergarten teacher at Windber, she ran three to five miles every day, golfed and taught aerobics classes at East Hills Recreation and the YMCA.

“She was the picture of health,” Michael Smith said. “She said, ‘That’s why it’s horrible. There is no test a woman can take.’ ”

Randy Griffith covers health care for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @photogriffer57.

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