Gymnasts unite to help cancer patients at Pennsylvania Convention Center

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Sunday, February 19, 2023
Gymnasts unite to help cancer patients at PA Convention Center
Thousands competed and raised funds for a local nonprofit, "Unite for HER," which benefits those affected by breast and ovarian cancer.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I was a gymnastics coach many years back," said Sue Weldon, a breast cancer survivor. "That was my wheelhouse and when I was diagnosed, I was still coaching."

Weldon channeled her experiences into the nonprofit, "Unite for HER," which provides integrative therapies to patients diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. The 'passport' allows members to receive gift cards, massages, cooking classes, workout routines, and importantly, education about their journey.

About 15 years ago, Weldon was able to partner with AJS Pancott Gymnastics in West Chester to incorporate the sport into the greater mission of Unite for HER.

"We were able to put together this incredible gymnastics event to raise funds to do some education for the community," she said. "It allowed us to springboard into serving thousands of women and men."

What became known as the "Pink Invitational" started as a meet of 800 in Downingtown and became a weekend-long competition featuring more than 4,000 athletes near and far. Many of them conducted their own fundraising efforts at home. The total raised this year between donations and sponsorships is estimated to hit half a million dollars.

"All the teams are wearing the same leotard," said Daniella Chavero-Diaz, a member of AJS Pancott Gymnastics. "It's really powerful because it shows how everyone in the community gets together to support such a good cause."

Several survivors came to the event at the Pennsylvania Convention Center to share their stories and make the connection feel real for the gymnasts.

Crystal Williams from Oaklyn, New Jersey, has one more surgery to complete before she puts breast cancer in the rear-view mirror. She found out about Unite for HER and was able to become a member during her journey.

"You can get massages, you can be a part of a workout plan," she said. "I applied for it and then I was approved. And literally, this has just been the biggest blessing that I could just ever ask for."

To learn more about Unite for HER and how to get involved, visit their website.

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