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McGUFFEY — Laura Bentley decided at an early age she couldn’t sit by and calmly watch cancer take the people she loved. She dedicated herself to raise money to find a cure and assist those who face the disease.
The community has seen the determination in the Upper Scioto Valley junior and have come to assist her in her efforts by organizing Laura’s Drive. The event is set for Saturday at Boy Scout Lake in Kenton. From 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., guests will be invited to bid on items in a silent auction, purchase baked goods, enjoy a picnic, release balloons and purchase chances to win one of six Vera Bradley purses.
The winners of the purses will be announced at the USV Relay for Life event on May 4 and represent a year of work for Laura to raise funding in the fight against cancer.
When she was seven, cancer impacted Laura’s life for the first time when she lost her grandmother, Peggy Bentley to lymphoma.
“We were really close,” said the teen. “She lived in Kentucky, but we visited her a lot and it was hard for me to take in.”
From that point on, said her mother, Jessica, Laura began raising funding for cancer research and assistance. But Grandma Bentley was only the first brush with cancer for Laura.
She lost a music teacher, two aunts, an uncle and then most recently, her great-grandmother, Juanita Bentley.
“I was very close to her,” said Laura. “She always put her family before herself.”
There were others close to Laura who were successful in their battle with the disease. Her mother fights skin cancer, said Laura, and she has two cousins diagnosed with cancer.
“Cancer has affected my life a lot,” she said. “These are big things I’ve had to deal with. I have lost a lot of people in my life to cancer and a lot more are fighting it.”
Last year Laura decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society by raising funds for the USV Relay For Life. She raffled off three purses and raised $100, but it wasn’t enough, said the determined teen. She vowed to surpass that amount in this year’s relay.
“I decided anything I could do to help, I would do it,” said Laura.
She began setting aside money she earned baby-sitting or doing jobs around the house with the idea she would use the money as seed funding. With the $350 she saved, Laura and Jessica went last weekend to the annual Vera Bradley Outlet Sale in Fort Wayne and purchased a total of six purses.
“They are cheaper during the sale,” said Jessica. “Otherwise, Laura couldn’t have afforded that many purses.”
Two of the purchased purses are from the frill line, said Laura, and the other four are quilted.
She told her friends on Facebook about the raffle and her story of cancer’s impact on her life. With that, Laura’s story took on a life of its own. People volunteered to help who Laura had never met.
“I just wanted to raise more than last year,” she said. “I was very surprised at the response. I never really asked for donations, but people just came out of nowhere. It got really big really fast. It’s amazing.”
A friend created a sign for Laura’s Drive and on the bottom attached six symbols of the people she has lost.
“She has tripled what she donated last year so far,” said Jessica. “She has raised $300 before the sales start.”
Laura’s success is no surprise to those who know her at USV. Principal Craig Hurley said Laura’s determination makes the freshman one of the district’s best all-round students.
“We are really happy with Laura,” he said. “Not just in Relay for Life, but she works hard at everything she does. She is one of our better students and we appreciate all she does for USV.”
Laura is optimistic the money she raises for the American Cancer Society will have an impact on the fight against cancer.
“Even if the money doesn’t bring a cure, it will help those people who need it pay for treatment and help them out,” said Laura. “This is not something I enjoy, seeing people I love fight cancer, but it has been a huge part of my life and this response means a lot to me.”
By DAN ROBINSON
Times staff writer