FREWSBURG - Frewsburg's Shannon Rae Tonger needs some support from her friends to help get her back on her feet.
Tonger, 2004 graduate of Frewsburg Central School, has been active in sports her entire life, but she was recently forced to take some time to heal after being diagnosed with synovial cell sarcoma.
A benefit will be held for Tonger at the Frewsburg Fire Department in the Blue Building on Sunday from 2-8 p.m. The event will feature giveaways, a Chinese auction, refreshments, a chili cook-off, live music provided by Derek Davis and the Tasty Groove and Amanda Barton, and a broadcast by local radio personality Dan Warren. Proceeds from the benefit will help offset the medical bills Tonger has incurred because she has been unable to work since the diagnosis.
Pictured is the Tonger family. From left are Connie, Shannon, Jeff and Megan. Shannon, a 2004 graduate of Frewsburg Central School, is currently battling synovial cell sarcoma.
"Shannon has always been there for all of her friends," said Connie, Tonger's mother. "And, at her job in Hilton Head, S.C., she does workouts of the day, which are benefit workouts for people in need. She does it all the time, and all the sudden now she needs it because she has wracked up thousands of dollars in medical fees. She graduated from SUNY Fredonia, so she also has student loans to pay, and we just didn't want her to have to find a way to pay for all this at such a young age."
According to Connie, synovial cell sarcoma is a rare soft tissue cancer that generally affects adolescents and young adults. Tonger had trouble with her knee throughout high school while she was a member of the softball, bowling and swim teams. But, she didn't realize that what was causing the pain was a tumor. Doctors made several diagnoses and tried different treatments before Tonger met a physician who confirmed that a tumor was the root of the problem. The tumor was removed in August, and Tonger is now in the recovery phase of her treatment with a positive prognosis. However, not only is she unable to work, but her health insure expired on her 26th birthday in September.
"Now her challenge is recovering from two surgeries to get her leg back into shape," said Connie. "She'll be monitored and scanned every three months for the next two years to ensure that the cancer doesn't spread to rear it's ugly head again. But, she is really strong and is doing really well."
Although Tonger is currently living in South Carolina, she could not wait to come back to Jamestown to visit for Thanksgiving and the benefit, said Connie.
"She'll be here for five days for Thanksgiving and the benefit," said Connie. "A lot of people around here know her because she was a lifeguard in Hidden Valley and worked at Old Navy while going to SUNY Fredonia. She also volunteered with the Special Olympics and the Red Cross blood drive when she was in high school. We know a lot of her friends might not be around here anymore, but we're hoping that people who remember her will come to the benefit to show her that they care."
Those interested in signing up for the chili cook-off can register at Anderson's Restaurant or email Jodie Aiken at email@example.com. Aiken and Tonger's sister Megan have been instrumental in the planning of the event, said Connie.
"She's a good kid and a good person," said Connie. "And, I think it's important to show your support because when you help at a benefit it makes you feel good. It also helps somebody in need. That's how people are around here, they want to help people so they go to benefits. It's for a good cause, and it will be a good time."
For those who cannot make it to the benefit, but still wish to donate, an account has been set up at Greater Chautauqua Federal Credit Union in Falconer. Check's need to be made out to Jeff Tonger and in the memo should be written "Shannon Tonger Benefit." The credit union is located at 51 E. Main St., and can be reached at 665-3799. For more information call Aiken at 969-5925 or Megan at 969-4142.