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Golden anniversary to double as childhood cancer benefit

Anna, front, and Bridget Crock romp in the living room with their mother, Desni Crock, and the family dog, Leo, on Friday. Jim and Sylvi Caporale, owners of American Flags & Poles on Front Street, are dedicating their 50th wedding anniversary celebration on Nov. 2 to donations for childhood cancer causes. Bridget is a childhood cancer survivor and a family friend of the Caporales. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

MARIETTA — A golden anniversary and childhood cancer research fundraiser are being rolled into one large event during the Marietta Main Street First Friday in November.

American Flags & Poles at 276 Front St. will be the center of activity this Friday.

Owned by Jim and Sylvi Caporale, the store has been a downtown landmark not just for banners but also for community benevolence and fun.

The Caporales were married 50 years ago, and some memorabilia from that occasion will be decked out in the store, including Sylvi’s wedding dress and a cake using the decorations from the original. The event is doubling as a fundraising drive and awareness-raiser about childhood cancer.

Desni Crock said she met Jim and Sylvi through her in-laws shortly after the Caporales moved to Marietta. Afterward, her daughter Bridget was born.

Bridget, front, and Anna Crock study after school on Friday. Jim and Sylvi Caporale, owners of American Flags & Poles on Front Street, are dedicating their 50th wedding anniversary celebration to donations for childhood cancer causes. Bridget is a childhood cancer survivor, and she and her family are close friends of the Caporales. (Photo by Michael Kelly)

When she was 17 months old, Bridget developed respiratory problems initially diagnosed as pneumonia but several months later determined to be a rare childhood cancer, pleuorpulmonary blastoma. After five months of treatment, therapies and surgeries, Bridget ultimately had to give up a lung, heart and lung lining and part of her chest wall to survive. Now 12 years old, she faces another challenge with the removal of her thyroid gland coming up in December.

Despite the rough road over which her health has traveled, Bridget remains vibrant and cheerful, Desni said, and the Caporales have been an important part of her life.

“She’s adorable, she loves to go into their store,” Desni said. “Sylvi spoils her, and when Bridget got sick, they went above and beyond to help our family. They’ve been an integral part of keeping us afloat. They’re very giving, loving people.”

Bridget’s disorder is a rare genetic form of cancer, and although her younger sister Anna has shown no signs of having it, doctors have discovered nodules on her thyroid gland. The family decided to have it removed, so both girls will have the procedure.

The family is part of the National Cancer Institute study of the disorder, called a Dicer 1 gene mutation. Its rarity is indicated by the number of people in the study: 288 since 1970. The Crocks, along with the family of Ava Nichols, who died of childhood cancer at age 6, were instrumental in founding BrAva Fight, a charity dedicated to support research into childhood cancers and support for patients.

In addition to Bridget’s battle with cancer, Anna was diagnosed with Intraocular Medulloepithilima in her eye in 2016 and had to have the eye removed.

On Friday night, Bridget was getting ready for her first dance at Marietta Middle School.

“I’m going as a zombie cheerleader,” she said.

Anna, now a fourth-grader at Harmar Elementary School, was relaxing after a week of school, and the family beagle Leo lay on the floor in the living room, sporting a dog-sized Superman cape.

Bridget has fond memories of American Flags & Poles.

“I love to ride the pony, but maybe I’m getting a little old for that,” she said. The family, she said, watches the Christmas parade every year from in front of the store.

Asked if she would like to send the Caporales an anniversary message, she didn’t hesitate.

“God bless them, and I love them very much,” she said.

Jim and Sylvi met in high school in North Tonawada, N.Y., dated in college and were married in 1968. At age 23, they moved to Marietta, where Sylvi taught elementary school. They founded American Flags & Poles in 1996.

“The secret to a good marriage is, marry the right woman,” Jim said Friday.

The theme of helping childhood cancer victims fits in with the overall First Fridays theme, which is about children, Sylvi said.

So rather than gifts, the Caporales want donations to the cause. A stack of Warrior Care Boxes stood in the store Thursday afternoon – the boxes are intended both to hold gifts for people who are battling cancer and for them to store memorabilia from the fight.

Sylvi suggested several items people could donate.

“It can be a comfort box, for things like soft toys for distraction when they’re getting a shot, hand sanitizer is always really helpful for anyone, like cute little lotions,” she said. “Even a gift card for gasoline, or a food card, a little extra above and beyond for people in a challenging situation – they need their money for necessities.”

The open house at American Flags & Poles, 276 Front St., will be held from 6-9 p.m. Friday.

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If You Go

* What: Jim and Sylvi Caporale 50th wedding anniversary party and open house.

* When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

* Where: American Flags & Poles, 276 Front St.

* Get involved: Donate to BrAva Fight, a childhood cancer research organization, and get a Warrior Care Box, which provides cancer patients with a special box to contain their memories of the battle against cancer. They are available at the store.

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