WELLSBURG - Organizers of the Michelle's Miles of Smiles 5K run-walk had two pieces of good news to announce Thursday night.
Not only did the walk, which was held Oct. 13 at Wellsburg Central Park, raise $5,000 for the family of Paul Huff Jr., a Follansbee boy with leukemia, but the group also collected $1,000 in donations for the Mozingo family during the free concert it held the night before the walk.
Rob Hilt, who has headed volunteers behind the walk in each of its three years, said the natural gas explosion that destroyed the Mozingos' home occurred the day before the concert, so it was decided to conduct an informal collection for the family then.
LENDING A HAND — Rob Hilt, organizer of Michelle’s Miles of Smiles, presented $5,000 to Paul Huff Jr., a Follansbee boy with leukemia, and his stepmother, Amber Weekly, as other volunteers with the event watch. The group also conducted an informal collection that raised $1,000 to help the Mozingo family in recovering from the natural gas explosion that destroyed their home. -- Warren Scott
Hilt said money for the Huffs was raised through the registration fees for participants and drawings and a Chinese auction held during the concert and walk. He said he's grateful to the many businesses, groups and individuals who donated prizes and assisted in other ways.
Hilt and other volunteers with the event gathered at Spicy Gringo's restaurant to present the check to Huff's family.
Amber Weekly, his stepmother, said it was "amazing for all of these people to get together and help us."
She said the money "will help a lot, especially with the medical bills."
Huff said, "It's very nice to know there are people out there wanting to help people like me."
Paul Huff Sr. said his son is in remission but still has monthly treatments ahead of him for the next three years.
Theresa Habbit, his grandmother, said Huff spent much time in the hospital after being diagnosed with leukemia in February 2012.
She also expressed her appreciation to those behind the run-walk.
"It's amazing how everyone has come together for both families," Habbit said.
The Huffs also received a donation last year from the Follansbee Christmas in the Park festival.
Hilt said the group will seek another youth with cancer to benefit from next year's walk. He noted last year's beneficiary, Austin Powell of Colliers, and his family assisted with this year's event.
Powell was on hand during the concert to pass on a spiked pink wig to Huff, and Hilt said he learned the two were friends before that.
The wig is a reminder of Michelle Huffman, for whom the walk is named. It was initiated by Hilt and others to help Huffman when she was battling breast cancer for a second time in 2011.
Huffman lost the battle at the age of 35 last year.
But her husband, Alan, who opened Spicy Gringo's with her, said her spirit lives on through the yearly walks.
"it's like a celebration of her life, and that's what she would have wanted. She wouldn't want everyone to be sad," he said.