By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
RAVENA — It was a steady stream of guests, donors and well-wishers Sunday as the community turned out in droves to support one of its own in his time of need.
Scott Searles, the town’s longtime former highway superintendent, is battling lung cancer and on Sunday, community residents came out for a spaghetti dinner and fundraiser at the Halfway House Tavern.
“It is so overwhelming,” Searles said. “It is hard to comprehend that so many people care. It’s hard to talk about because I can’t believe that so many people would do this for me.”
The Halfway House Tavern was packed by 4 p.m., at the start of the event, and there was a steady flow of people throughout the fundraiser.
“A non-stop stream of people, many donations, and it all says, ‘Scott, you are our brother and we stand with you!” said Mayor Bill Misuraca, owner of the Halfway House Tavern.
In addition to a spaghetti dinner that could be eaten at the restaurant or taken ‘to go,’ there was a baked goods sale, raffles for gift baskets and gift cards donated by local businesses, T-shirts and more.
“About 20 businesses donated gift cards and gift baskets to raffle off and to benefit Scott (Searles),” volunteer Olivia Losee said. “This event shows what an awesome community we have, that everyone is coming together to pitch in something to help support Scott.”
Losee, a friend of Searles’ daughter, Morgan McDonald, staffed the raffle and 50/50 table.
The dinners sold out days ahead of time, Misuraca said, with 172 dinners raising $2,064 on Sunday. Another $2,000 was raised through the raffles and other activities.
Searles is battling small-cell lung cancer that has spread to his brain, according to his wife, Bonnie Searles. She said she was awestruck at the amount of community support the family has received.
“I am astounded. I wasn’t looking for all this and it’s just beyond me,” Bonnie Searles said of the fundraiser.
All the funds raised will help cover medical expenses incurred by the family.
“This is an expensive journey but it’s a journey that we have to take,” Bonnie Searles said. “We are just hoping to kick (cancer’s) butt. After it spread and went to his brain, things kind of shifted. He does have tumors on his brain and it has spread a little bit, but they can’t do chemotherapy at the same time they do radiation for his head, so we have to switch back and forth. Right now he is done with the radiation and is starting back up with chemo. It’s once every three weeks and until they say ‘you’re good,’ so that is what we are looking forward to — getting him clear.”
Morgan McDonald, Searles’ daughter, said her father made many friends throughout his 30 years with the highway department, and it was “absolutely unbelievable” to see how many people came out to show their support and contribute to the cause.
Since retiring from the highway department in March of last year, Searles has been spending a great deal of time with his three grandchildren, McDonald’s son Landon and two daughters, Liliana and Lacie.
“Every single weekend that he can have them over, he has them,” McDonald said. “Any time that he can spend with them, he does. And they absolutely love it — they think it’s summer all year long because they get to see him all the time now.”
While Searles said he misses working for the highway department and was sorry he had to step down from his position, spending time with his family has been priceless.
“The grandkids are amazing,” Searles said. “Just having them come over — my grandson comes every single weekend and he stays every Friday and Saturday night, and then he goes back home Sunday. It means the world to me.”
His family — his wife, daughter, son and son-in-law — have been incredibly supportive throughout his illness, Searles said.
“I’m not used to that — I want to be the one to take care of my family and right now I can’t,” he said.
A team of volunteers helped plan and run the fundraiser, including friends of the family who wanted to show their love and support in any way they could.
“I have known Scott my whole life,” said volunteer Gabby Ambrose. “He has been around in our community for so many years and I have a family relationship with him, so I decided I wanted to cover over and help out.”