Inspirational speakers coming to Lakemont

“United We Can” features a series of six inspirational speakers during a 90-minute luncheon at The Casino at Lakemont Park starting Sept. 12 with the mother of the youngest passenger on Flight 93.

Deborah Borza, the mother of the late Deora Bodley, shares her story of how she has honored her daughter through her volunteer work at Flight 93 Memorial, Somerset, and Deora’s legacy.

Borza moved from San Diego, Calif., to Annapolis, Md., after the tragedy to attend meetings with government officials as she and others petitioned for funding for the Flight 93 National Memorial. She is a past treasurer of the Families of Flight 93, past vice president and serves as board member of the Friends of Flight 93.

In its third year, the event was formerly known as the Blair County Sisterhood Series. It changed its name to be more inclusive said founder Sue Griep, as many men expressed an interest in attending but hesitated errantly thinking it was for women only.

The speakers series “motivates, inspires and touches hearts as the speakers share their journeys,” said Griep, who is also the victim/witness coordinator for the Blair County District Attorney Office. Others involved are: Cathy Griffith of the Griffith Family Foundation, Dr. Deb Yesky, Erin McCloskey of St. Francis University, and Dani Fre of Penn State Altoona.

The series is presented by a partnership between The Casino, the Griffith Family Foundation/ Sideline Cancer, Mount Aloysius, St. Francis University and Tyrone Events and Promotions.

“Everyone has a story and you think you know their story,” Griep said, “but really everyone has a story you don’t know about. It’s amazing to hear these amazing stories of hard work and how you never really know where you are going to land in life. You go down one career path and someone’s story teaches you and directs you in a different way.”

Frequent attendee Angela Lombardi of Newry, a mother of five, has seen the impact the messages shared at the events has had on her daughters: Marissa, 25, Ashley, 22 and Sierra, 17.

“The speakers’ stories are all different but are all about positivity and moving forward in life,” Lombardi said. “All the speakers have had to overcome different circumstances … and you are like ‘wow, that could be me’ … the speakers all dig down deep and share their stories. Everyone has had hurdles they’ve had to overcome.”

Past presenters have included Coquese Washington, former Penn State women’s basketball coach; Penn State Men’s Basketball Coach Pat Chambers; “Shark Tank” Entrepreneur Lani Lazzari and “The Voice” and “Biggest Loser” contestant Erin Willett.

Student groups from five Blair County school districts, area college students, community leaders and many others attend. The students are scattered among the adults and provide an opportunity for all to make connections.

“I make connections happen and I want others to make connections, too,” Griep said. “When you make connections you don’t know where a connection will take you.”

The series started in 2017 after three years of discussion, Griep said. The event offers a message of hope and inter-connectedness. And, it is through connections she has made that Griep has snared such impressive speakers.

“I’ve never been turned down. No one has every said no,” she said. When she met one of Washington’s staff members at a Coaches for Cancer event, Griep told the staffer about the speaker series and asked if her boss would be interested. Griep knew it was an impulsively big ask, but Washington said yes.

“It’s really gone places, we didn’t ever think it would go,” she said, noting attendance has averaged about 125 people each year. “No matter what happens in life, you can be resilient and find a way to move on. You move on just by keeping one foot in front of the other … we want people to leave better than when they came in.”

Mirror Staff Writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.

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