Sweet Relief

Cupcake Fundraiser Raises Awareness Of Deadly Gas, Lung Cancer Link

Posted: April 29, 2013

Cupcake judges Martha Woodruff, host of WMRA’s The Spark, and Luke Hartman (in apron), vice president of enrollment at Eastern Mennonite University, question Paige Holzner, 12, about her Cookie Monster creation during Saturday’s Cupcakes for a Cause fundraiser at Cornerstone Christian School. (Photos by Jason Lenhart)
These Cookie Monster-themed cupcakes were baked by contestant Paige Holzner, with a little help from grandma. Paige entered her creation into the Cupcakes for a Cause competition Saturday at Cornerstone Christian School north of Harrisonburg.
HARRISONBURG — When Glendon Blosser’s wife, Dorothy, was diagnosed with lung cancer, the Rockingham County couple had never heard about the dangers of radon.

They also weren’t aware that the Shenandoah Valley and much of western Virginia is home to what the Environmental Protection Agency has designated “Zone 1” areas, which have the highest potential for dangerous levels of the colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas.

Shortly before Dorothy Blosser died in 2004 at 72 years old, the couple’s oldest son conducted a radon test in their house, and sure enough, it found elevated levels.

“We were absolutely innocent of the whole situation,” Glendon Blosser said.

Blosser can’t say for sure radon is to blame for his wife’s lung cancer, but through the process of elimination, it seems the most likely culprit, he said.

“She never smoked,” he said. “We never even went to restaurants with smoking, so what else could it be?”

Other causes of lung cancer exist, of course, but according to the EPA, radon is second only to smoking as the leading cause of the disease. The radioactive gas leads to about 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year, the agency estimates.

Stories like the Blossers’ are the kind that Kimberly Lester and her mother, Dusty Donaldson, would like to hear less of.

Three years ago, they started the Dusty Joy Foundation to raise awareness about lung cancer and to educate the public about the disease. Donaldson, 58, of North Carolina, is a lung cancer survivor.

On Saturday, the foundation hosted one of its sweeter fundraising and outreach events — Cupcakes for a Good Cause.

The baking contest was held at Cornerstone Christian School just north of Harrisonburg off U.S. 11 and featured more than a dozen amateur and professional bakers.

Lester, of Harrisonburg, said the event is a fun way to talk about a dark topic.

Attendees got to sample a range of cupcakes that included flavors you don’t see at your average birthday party — flavors like pumpkin spice and peppermint.

Also at Saturday’s event, Donaldson gave away free radon testing kits to those who attended the event, and showed them how to use the devices. About 1 in 15 homes contains high levels of radon, according to the EPA.

“Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in people who never smoked,” she told people gathered around her booth. “For people who’ve been smoking, it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.”

Home-testing kits are available at most hardware stores for less than $20. Radon mitigation systems can cost about $1,200.

Lester said she and her mother hope to get the message out that anyone and everyone is at risk — not just smokers.

“If you have lungs,” she said, “you can get lung cancer.”

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com

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