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'Two Moms For a Cure' Christen Simmons and Stephanie Maschino with Shire Donuts owner Heather King and Currency Coffee owner George Shoemaker. The coffee and doughnuts purveyors are hosting with a fundraiser this Saturday for a local family battling cancer.

'Two Moms For a Cure' Raising Funds for Carter LaCasse

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
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DALTON, Mass. — The holidays can be stressful to anyone but it is especially so for those fighting and supporting loved ones afflicted with childhood cancer.
 
Local moms Christen Simmons and Stephanie Maschino are at it again in working to raise funds for a family fighting childhood cancer. 
 
The duo's lives were greatly affected by childhood cancer and have been collaborating with local organizations and businesses to gather funds for their cause.
 
Maschino's son Tony died in 2016 from inoperable brainstem glioma and Simmon's son Cam is a three-year survivor of cancer. 
 
When someone's child gets diagnosed with cancer they end up becoming part of a community of people who share in that experience and act as a support group, the women said. 
 
They had people assist them when they were going through it now they want to pay it forward.
 
This Saturday, Dec. 3, they will be hosting a "Donuts with Santa" event in partnership with Shire Donuts and Currency Coffee. 
 
People are encouraged to swing by Shire Donuts for a $5 Grab and Go box that will include two doughnuts, hot chocolate, and a picture with Santa. 
 
The money that they raise at the event will supply a Christmas for Carter LaCasse, his 11-year old brother Tyler, and their mother, Crystal Czerno. 
 
The two women's perspective allows them to know what others facing so they can direct businesses and organizations down the path to effectively make a difference. 
 
"You have to walk a mile in somebody's shoes, that saying is so accurate. Because you didn't know until you knew," Currency Coffee owner George Shoemaker said to the women during an interview. "You have that perspective, you've walked the mile."
 
They have done a few fundraising efforts in the past, including a dunk tank in front of Walmart, and held standouts in Park Square to raise awareness about childhood cancer.
 
The importance of this cause is so great that the decision to partner with the Two Moms For A Cure was an easy one, Shire Donuts owner Heather King and Shoemaker said. 
 
"I just think it's something that no parent should ever have to go through, nor any child. So I hope that our community supports and comes because it's something really good to do for the holiday season, " King said. "It's really not about buying gifts for people, it's more about giving, and this family needs some help and we should do the best that we can for them."
 
There are a few organizations in the Berkshires dedicated to cancer support for any age. One of the nonprofits, Moments House, closed two years ago, a casualty of COVID-19, Simmons said during the dunk tank fundraiser. In North County, PopCares raises funds for all ages affected by cancer and the AYJ Fund focuses on childhood cancer, especially brain cancers. 
 
Childhood cancer is underfunded and underresearched even though it is not rare. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, 43 kids are expected to be diagnosed with cancer each day. 
 
Most current standard treatments were approved 32 years ago, many before the mid-1980s yet it is severely underfunded, the non-profit said.
 
All pediatric cancers combined, which includes brain cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, bone and tissue, only receives 4 percent of the nation's budget for cancer research. 
 
The two business owners said when they find people they connect with, they have a strong desire to open their businesses up and help, Shoemaker said. 
 
Maschino's son loved Minions so when she went to Shire to buy a box of Minion doughnuts, she told King her story. 
 
"From there we kind of created a relationship, I guess. And so, she had very kindly offered to help us out with any future fundraisers," Maschino said. 
 
"And I had been in touch with Carter's mom, just to kind of see how she was doing, kind of understanding where she is at this moment and thought this would be a great opportunity to have a local fundraiser and help out her family."
 
Community members have bound together to help the LaCasse family after they were informed on Oct. 24 that Carter had relapsed. He was diagnosed a year ago with a rare form of leukemia and the family had to spend Christmas in the hospital. He'd returned home from the hospital in June.
 
Carter's mom was a teacher at Pittsfield High school but had to leave her position to support her son.
 
Community members flocked to support the family the best they could, by making donations to their GoFundMe page or donating blood.
 
Strong Little Souls, a childhood cancer foundation, also gave him a magical Christmas morning by having Santa Claus visit him at the hospital. 
 
This year is proving to be no different with community members hosting fundraisers to help support the family.
 
The Berkshires is a charitable community willing to help their neighbors in time of need whether it is just helping shovel a driveway or more serious situations like a house burning down or a family whose child has cancer, Shoemaker said. 
 
"We tend to be a charitable community. We tend to give and I think we're very lucky to have those people surrounding all of us," he said. "And not only do they give charitably, they support local businesses. They are all about where they live, not necessarily looking from without and that, I think, is one of the upsides of the Berkshires is we tend to take care of our own."
 
If doughnuts are not your thing, there is also a Wine and Dine Basket fundraiser for a basket filled with gift certificates from local businesses. The contents of the basket value more than $1,000.  
 
It includes gift certificates of $100 each from Balderdash Cellars & Balderdash items, Hot Dog Ranch, Mazzeo's Ristorante, Proprietor's Lodge, Zucchinis; $200 from Tavern at the A and $50 from Roasted Garlic, along with four bottles of Balderdash Wine donated by Melissa Mazzeo and Joan DiMartino. 
 
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased from any of the participating businesses or through Venmo: @mazzeosristorante. The drawing will be held on Dec. 30. 

Tags: cancer,   fundraiser,   

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Owner of Abandoned Cats Pleads Guilty to Animal Cruelty

Staff Reports
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A woman accused of abandoning more than a dozen cats during snowstorm a year ago has pleaded guilty. 
 
Kelly Hathaway of Pittsfield pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of animal cruelty in Central Berkshire District Court as part of a plea agreement. Following the plea agreement, she was ordered to have a mental health evaluation and follow any after care as instructed by the court.
 
She was placed on two years probation and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service. She is not allowed to possess any animals and was ordered to surrender any she has in her care. She is also prohibited from volunteering with any animal groups.
 
Hathaway and another defendant were charged last March with abandoning 15 cats on back roads in Richmond and Lanesborough after an investigation by Lanesborough Police, Lanesborough Animal Control and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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