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Better idea helps good cause, with no pig mess

The sun was barely setting between the hills of east Pasco the evening that Paul Veslock and I, garbed in complete football uniforms sans helmets, joined a pit bull named Bear in splashing through a massive hog-wallow while trying to capture a baby pig.

I knew then that he was destined for greatness, and now that he has come up with a blockbuster idea for the American Cancer Society's Nov. 15 Strides Against Cancer event, I'm sure of it.

In fact this idea, which will work to the benefit of cancer patients and survivors who are often denied a place in such outings, is vastly superior to the one that left us drenched in equal amounts of pig poop and failure that night in October 1975.

Veslock and I, back then, were teammates on a Dade City Police Department football team that was getting ready to face the Dade City Fire Department team in what turned out to be a brutal game to raise money for charity.

I was allowed to play because the 13-man, one-woman department couldn't really field a full team and because the firefighters guessed, correctly, that I presented a minimal threat.

Veslock's idea was that we would capture a piglet, put a harness on it and take it to the game as a police mascot.

Veslock, Bear, the hog farmer and I all thought it was a great idea.

The pigs saw it in a different light, and the whole enterprise turned out to be as good an idea as taking Veslock's current boss, Lee Cannon, to a Pasco County Commission meeting and inviting him to speak his mind.

We not only wound up without a pig, but the other cops made us ride in the back of the bus on the way to the game, and firefighters demanded tetanus shots before they would tackle or block us.

But Veslock's judgment has improved with time.

"Being a practical sort," Veslock said, "it has always bothered me that the energy expended during the various charity bike rides, golf tournaments and walks is somehow wasted."

His idea is simple.

Cancer patients or survivors who are not physically able to compete in the 3-mile cancer walk (which also allows runners, in-line skaters, roller skaters and those in wheelchairs) will get a free ride from members of the Sheriff's Office team, and the department will make arrangements for wheelchairs for those who need them and for transportation to the Trinity Outpatient Center, where the event takes place.

"As I see it, everybody wins," Veslock said. "Volunteers get the satisfaction of helping and some great exercise; the cancer society raises some money; and the victims of this terrible disease have a little fun and the satisfaction of knowing that their participation may enhance the success of the event and take us one step closer to conquering cancer."

When Veslock asked me to join his team, and assured me that this time no vicious dogs, angry sows or porcine waste products would be involved, I was honored.

As a cancer survivor, I have a vested interest in the search for a cure and the alleviation of suffering for those battling the disease.

Ironically, shortly after I agreed to help, I was injured in a fall at a friend's home where I seemed to have sprained most of what pass for muscles in my upper body, and wondered for a while whether I might not wind up as a pushee rather than a pusher, but, alas, I seem to have healed sufficiently enough to join the Sheriff's Office team and a lot of other good people in a good cause.

It's probably just as well because friends who have been around me after my exercise sessions tell me that _ pigs or no pigs _ I'd still have to ride in the back of the bus.