PEPPERELL -- Though they may seem like an unlikely pairing, cancer survivor Ray Larochelle and eighth-grade student Paige Engler are teaming up for a common cause -- eradicating the disease that has affected them both.
Engler and a group of nearly 20 friends are working with Larochelle for this year's Relay for Life at North Middlesex Regional High School to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
To raise money for the Relay, they are holding a benefit concert and dance at the Pepperell VFW, a tradition that Larochelle began six years ago, after beginning a battle with stage 3 throat cancer.
"I'm seven years a survivor, and every year I do a fundraiser to help with research because if it wasn't for the research, who knows where I would be today," Larochelle said.
Larochelle said the hall is donated by the Pepperell VFW, and local businesses donate items to be raffled off.
The concert will be held March 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door for a $10 donation.
The band Eastwood Peak, made up of North Middlesex graduates, will be performing.
Engler began her involvement with Relay for Life as a fifth-grader at Hawthorne Brook Middle School. That year was the first year that the program had been opened up to middle school students, and Engler and friends became the youngest participants in the district.
She said she raises money in memory of her grandfather, among others who have had cancer.
"A lot of people are affected by cancer.
Every year, her group, the Pink Panthers, chooses a theme and asks for donations from friends and family members. This year, she said they are hoping to raise more than $3,000.
Engler said Larochelle, who always partners with a team at the high school, picked her team this year because of their youth and their dedication.
"Ray said he needed a reliable team. He saw we were really involved, and that we're always one of the top raisers," Engler said.
The pairing, Engler said, will make both fundraising efforts stronger than ever.
"He's going to drive us to do better and raise more money because we see how it's inspired him to help people going through what he's gone through," Engler said.
Because the students in the group are in grades 7 and 8, Larochelle said he anticipates working with them for several years to come.
"A lot of these kids that I work with, their friends or family were affected by cancer, and they have the courage to work and raise funds for the Cancer Society. Cancer touches everybody," Larochelle said.
The Relay for Life will be held at North Middlesex Regional High School on May 9.
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