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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

Lions Club donates backpacks to elementary school

The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.

Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

CAT Theatre announces cast of Sherlock Holmes play

CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run from Oct. 24-Nov. 8. Adapted by Steven Dietz, it is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.

The plot follows what seems to be the end of the career of the world’s greatest detective as he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer Irene Adler, Holmes and his faithful companion, Dr. Watson, find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. As Holmes says, “The game is afoot Watson, and it is a dangerous one!” > Read more.

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

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