2015-07-24 / Community

CCC festival chairmen named

Karen Schilling and Melissa Cookson, co-chairmen of Fight Back Festival 2015. (Courtesy photo) Karen Schilling and Melissa Cookson, co-chairmen of Fight Back Festival 2015. (Courtesy photo) Melissa Cookson and Karen Schilling have been named co-chairmen of Fight Back Festival 2015, to be held Saturday, Sept. 26 at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester. The annual event is an allday family festival to raise money for the programs and services for adults affected by cancer at the Cancer Community Center. The event includes a 5K trail run/walk, the Not Dead Yet bike rides, a Kid Zone, Wellness Expo, live music and lunch catered by the culinary students of Southern Maine Community College.

Cookson and Schilling have been involved with Fight Back Festival for several years both as participants and volunteers. Their dedication to the event and Cancer Community Center led them to take a greater role each year. Cookson, who lives in Scarborough, is a commercial loan administrator with Norway Savings Bank. She is also a cancer survivor who started giving back as a volunteer with the Maine Buddy Program. She was impressed by the work of the Cancer Community Center and jumped at the opportunity to help out with Fight Back Festival.

“Melissa is a great leader,” said Sara Olson, development director for the center. “She is also a hard worker who rallies her friends and coworkers to get involved in this event.”

Schilling is a Portland resident who is an oncology dietician with Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute. Her personal experience with cancer occurred when her sister was diagnosed with leukemia.

“I deal with cancer every day in my job,” she said. “Then I had a cancer experience in my family. And I got the honor of being my sister’s stem cell donor.”

Schilling became involved in Fight Back Festival as a cyclist and has been the coordinator of the Not Dead Yet bike ride for the past two years.

Cookson and Schilling were chosen for to be co-chairmen because of their experience with Fight Back Festival and their leadership qualities.

“Melissa and Karen are able to look at the big picture and pay attention to details,” Olson said. “That’s a rare and wonderful combination in a volunteer. Plus they are natural leaders.”

Registration for both individuals and teams is now open for Fight Back Festival. Visit FightBackFestival.org for more information.

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