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‘Free to Breathe’ 5k to honor father

Steve Salmon taught his daughters how to draw, how to fish, how to catch frogs and snakes, and how to make a model of a human skeleton from leftover chicken bones.

He taught them how to discover beauty in nature, and how, at the tender age of five, to eat raw oysters.

He taught them how to build a rabbit trap that didn’t always catch rabbits and how to handle tools so they wouldn’t need a man to turn a wrench.

As Salmon liked to say, “Anyone can raise a boy – but it takes a real man to raise two daughters!” 

In the dedication of their book, Pink Sky at Night, his daughters write that Salmon (pictured at right) also taught them to think creatively, how to like being just who they are, and to try every day to make someone laugh. The best way to learn, he contended, is to make mistakes – so never do anything halfway.

And when Salmon learned, a month shy of his 40th wedding anniversary, that what he thought was pneumonia was actually stage four lung cancer, he was as good as his word.

“Dad gave it his all,” say his daughters, in the fight for his life. He began the most aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment his body could endure. “But the truth was,” says Jennifer Melton Salmon, “Dad’s lungs were already so badly damaged, he really didn’t stand a chance.” 

A month after his death in December 2008, Melton and her sister, Stephanie Weis, got involved with the National Lung Cancer Partnership (NLCP). In 2010, they were selected from hundreds of applicants nationwide to attend the organization’s annual summit in Tampa, Florida, and spend a week touring a cancer research facility, learning about lung cancer, and training to become advocates.

“We came back feeling empowered,” says Melton, “and ready to make a difference here in Richmond in Dad’s memory.”

A Lighthouse and Three Tugboats
The Pink Sky book, co-authored by the girls and illustrated by Melton to tell their young children about their grandfather, was a first step. Melton recalls that when they presented the manuscript to the CEO of Mascot Books, he cried.

“As a father of two young girls, [Naren Aryal] was especially touched by the story,” Melton says. “It is a story of a lighthouse (Dad) and 3 tugboats (Mom, Steph and I) and a storm that hits the harbor.” A portion of proceeds from the book, which centers around a theme of weathering life’s storms, benefits NLCP and lung cancer research.

Another step toward making a difference was organizing Virginia’s inaugural Free to Breathe 5K Fun Run/Walk & Memorial Walk, a benefit for NLCP that will take place March 12 at Short Pump Town Center. The Richmond site was chosen, says Melton, not only because lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of men and women in Virginia, but also because the city is the home of tobacco giant Philip Morris.

In addition to raising funds for research and education, the 5k event is intended to raise awareness of the deadly disease.

“Sadly,” Melton says, “the assumption people immediately make is that lung cancer is a smoker’s disease. . . Well, the fact is, if you breathe air you are at risk.”

The “smoker’s disease” stigma contributes to a vicious cycle of less funding for research, which leads to fewer researchers choosing the field, fewer advances made in treatments and fewer sufferers who survive.

And whether or not lung cancer sufferers increase their risk by smoking, says Melton, “that doesn’t change the fact that these people deserve compassion and the best treatment while living out their lives.” As her nurse educator sister points out, “No one lives a perfect life.” It’s only human to take chances such as speeding while driving, forgetting to wear sunscreen, and eating fast food, even while knowing of the potential harm involved.

‘If Not for Him’
Through their work with NLCP, says Melton, Steve Salmon’s daughters have had the opportunity to form special bonds and friendships with a number of lung cancer survivors and their family members.

“Having the opportunity to meet survivors, talking to families going through it or families who have lost someone to it is so rewarding,” says Melton.

She mentions a recent visitor to the NLCP booth at a health-related expo – “an incredible woman named Clara” – who hung back at first looking apprehensive, but then approached to talk about her experiences as a four-year lung cancer survivor. Currently under treatment again, Clara is a hero to Melton. “[She’s] a reminder to me of why I fight this deadly disease that sometimes feels impossible.”

But it is the memories of her father, and the lessons he imparted in his daughters, that ultimately give Melton her purpose.

“I have dedicated my life to this,” she says.

“The only way I can live without Dad is to continue to fight the disease that killed him. If not for him, [then] for someone else.”

The inaugural Free to Breathe® 5K Fun Run/Walk & Memorial Walk will take place at Short Pump Town Center on March 12. To register, donate, or volunteer, visit http://freetobreathe.org For d.etails about the Pink Sky book, visit http://pinkskyatnight.com .


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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