The launch of Cape Ann's annual Relay For Life at Gloucester High School's Newell Stadium has once again brought out a number of special stories from those who turned out for the annual American Cancer Society fund-raiser, which continues today.
For one, Gloucester firefighters were walking the relay and selling pink Gloucester Fire Department T-shirts "in support of one of their own," as Deputy Chief Steve Aiello put it.
Aiello said that firefighter Michael Smith, who is battling cancer, was originally diagnosed in 2000. After receiving treatment and going into remission, he and his family have annually participated in the Relay for Life by establishing Team Red Baron.
Their team and the firefighters' mission took on renewed urgency this past winter; Smith was diagnosed with a different form of cancer.
"(He) is currently receiving treatments and is not feeling well enough to participate in this year's relay, so his brother and sister firefighters are stepping in for him," Aiello said .
"Mike would be the first one to step up and help out one of his comrades if they were in need," Aiello added. "He is considered by his superiors as a dependable and hardworking firefighter who leads by example.
"His peers admire him for his exceptional work ethic and his keen sense of humor," he said, "but most importantly he sets an excellent example for us all as a good family man to his wife and three young sons."
All proceeds from the sale of the pink Gloucester Fire Department T-shirts will go to the Relay for Life.
Meanwhile, Gloucester resident Jonathan Pratt, managing partner of Life Solutions Group, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Co.'s career agency in Boston, was also among the Relay for Life participants Friday night and into today.
Pratt, a lifelong city resident, has led a team called Family Times for the past eight years. The team, which was started by Pratt's sister, was created to honor their brother, Chucky.
The team raised more than $12,300 for this year's event, with Pratt raising $3,000 on his own, the top figure among the 211 fund-raisers in Cape Ann.
Habitat health honor
The city of Gloucester's manager of health services is being saluted by Restoration Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for his work in helping the health of a wildlife habitat as well.
Charles Max Schenk was honored at this past week's City Council meeting and presented a NOAA "Excellence In Restoration" award for his leadership in the Mill Pond mud flat and salt marsh restoration project, which took place from 1998 through this year.
"The key to any successful restoration effort is committed partners," said John Catena, supervisor for the Northeast Region of the NOAA Restoration Center. "While a number of organizations worked long and hard on this 10-year project, much of the project success is due to the leadership, ingenuity and determination of Max Schenk.
"Max was involved in every aspect of this project from grant writing and contract management to outreach and communications," Catena said in a prepared statement.
Schenk has also provided valuable support on other NOAA Restoration Center-supported projects in Gloucester, including the Eastern Point Salt Marsh restoration project, the Dun Fudgin intertidal restoration project and improvements to the Little River fish ladder.
In 2005, Schenk was a recipient of the NOAA Volunteer of the Year award, which recognizes individuals for resourcefulness and leadership in balancing the human use of America's coastal and ocean resources with the needs of the resources themselves.
Speaking of special honors, Gloucester's Connie Rohrbough received an award because of extraordinary volunteer service, presented recently by Rockport Music at its gala opening of its annual Chamber Music Festival.
She received the Christine Lovgren Award for distinguished volunteer service. Rohrbough, also known as the "orchid whisperer," was presented with an orchid before a full audience and roaring applause.
Among her gifts were also tickets for her and her family for a concert she had been wanting to attend. She served as the volunteer house manager for several years and began her volunteer work when the concerts were held at the Rockport Art Association.
When the new performance center opened in 2010, Connie accepted the position of chair of the house management group. She was responsible for scheduling and training volunteers, and leading a team of greeters, ushers and concessions sales people.
"She established operating procedures that helped create a seamless experience for every concertgoer," according to the award announcement. "She always goes above and beyond, and her drive and dedication is evident in the many hours of 'overtime' she has spent at the hall. Connie tackles volunteer leadership with great poise and humility."
Rohrbough also serves on the boards of two other Cape Ann nonprofits — the Thacher Island Association and Cape Ann Animal Aid.
The flag at the Veterans Center will fly this week in honor of Salvatore Peter Randazza, veteran of World War II. Born March 26, 1924, he entered the U.S. Navy on March 15, 1944. A Coxswain, he served with Landing Craft Tank 115, and 1226.
Randazza served in the Asian Pacific theater, was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, American Theatre Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theatre Medal with four battle stars, Philippine Liberation Medal with one battle star. He died November 21, 1994. The flag was requested to fly in his honor by his wife, Catherine, and family.
Anyone wishing to fly a flag in honor of a deceased veteran can call the Office of Veterans Services at 978-281-9740.