Katie Gemberling plans to look toward her grandmother, Alice Stines, when she sings the Nat King Cole classic “L-O-V-E” on Saturday at the Courage to Climb concert.
Stines, a Taylorsville resident, is being treated for cancer of the abdominal cavity.
“She’s a fighter. She lives every day to the fullest,” Gemberling said of her relative, who cries when she hears the song.
Stines is among the reasons that the weekend concert in Columbus North High School’s auditorium exists: to raise awareness and money for innovative research for cancer treatment and cures. Funds, including $5,000 raised at last year’s concert, go to the Indianapolis-based Hoosier Cancer Research Network.
The event began in 2009 as a way for choir students to support Columbus North High School choral teacher and singer Janie Gordon as she successfully battled breast cancer. Its scope broadened afterward.
The name came from a motto Gordon adopted during her treatment.
Gemberling, who opens the show, is one of more than 40 performers, including a live band, for the event that features local high schoolers, adults and alumni from Gordon’s choirs.
“When my former students planned and produced the first Courage to Climb concert five years ago, my heart swelled with pride and gratefulness,” said Gordon, now one of the event organizers.
“That support helped me overcome the obstacles of cancer and gave me hope to heal through the power of music. I am humbled at the thought that my current students as well as choir alumni are willing to continue the climb.”
Randy Dillinger, director of public relations and communications for the Hoosier Cancer Research Network, also is humbled and grateful for the work of students and alumni — so much so that he plans to attend Saturday.
He mentioned that funds from the gathering specifically help fill gaps in work relating to correlative cancer studies from clinical trials.
But the show itself, a mix of struggle and inspiration, makes all that medical backdrop very personal, Gordon said. Performers make certain of that.
“They each bring a personal story about a loved one’s battle, or they themselves have had it,” Gordon said.