Friend’s terminal cancer diagnosis leads to a new charity in Harrisburg

When Harrisburg resident Gina Percy, 38, heard that her best friend, Meagan Skelton, was diagnosed two years ago with stage 4 terminal nasopharyngeal cancer – a type of head and neck cancer – she began searching for a way to help.

Knowing that not all the expense of going for treatment was covered by insurance, Percy decided to find a way to help her friend’s family.

Percy didn’t have the resources to help by herself, so she organized a fundraiser to benefit Skelton. In March – with encouragement from her friends in Christian rock group Jeremiah’s Promise – she planned Drumming for a Cure.

The day-long concert, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sept. 13, featured Christian rock groups, raised money to defray Skelton’s treatment expenses.

As Percy worked on the event, she founded her charity called Drumming for Change. It raises money to help people fighting cancer by covering expenses that health insurance doesn’t cover. She is planning other events to help local families in the coming year, including a 5K road race next spring.

Percy’s daughter, Emilee, now 18, had brain surgery at age 4 to remove a benign tumor, so Percy knew how expenses can pile up.

“So many people helped us with money, food and gas as we went through the treatment. I want to help others as they go through the things we did,” she said.

Percy and Skelton had been best friends since their childhood in Pennsylvania. Skelton was waiting to be accepted into a clinical trial for treatment. She had been struggling, however, and she died Sept. 12, less than 24 hours before the fundraiser.

Percy stil held the concert and donated the money to her friend’s husband, Jeff Skelton, to help with the funeral expenses.

Fifteen local businesses in Harrisburg donated goods and services to help make the concert a success. Carnival games, a bounce house and 18 vendors, along with donations from the approximately 250 people in attendance, gathered more than $600 for Skelton.

The crowds were entertained by Jeremiah’s Promise, Elijah’s Rain, The Change, Seventh Vessel and the Rocky River Community Church Worship Band, playing Christian music at the Harrisburg Town Center.

Hawthorne’s New York Pizza and Bar of Harrisburg also chipped in, donating 20 percent of its proceeds from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. that Saturday. That amounted to $265, bringing the donation to more than $865.

Grateful for all who donated their time and services, Percy said, “This is God’s work. He wants us to be out there helping others. When you’re doing good work, God is on your side, for sure.”