Kent native to hang bras from bridge

Megan Wilkinson

Activist looks to raise cancer awareness

Jim Colliver’s roots are in Kent. He grew up here.

In 2002, he founded the Kent Celtic Club with the help of his girlfriend, Mary Rita Murray Klein. It was a two-person operation — but together, they organized a number of Irish charity events, such as the St. Pats Day benefit to the humane society.

Recently though, Colliver has gone through rough times. Just three years ago, his girlfriend died at 53 from lung cancer. A year after that, his mother, Dora Colliver, died of cancer at 79.

“It was really difficult watching both Mary and my mother go through their illnesses,” he said, “It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

That’s why this year he’s dedicating the Kent Irish Festival, which he’s planning, to both of them. The theme: “Bras Across the Crooked River.”

The event is Saturday from noon to 10:30 p.m. on the corner of Main and Water streets and will be a charity for both the American Cancer Society and the Breast Oasis organization.

“I wanted to have something that would leave a strong visual impact on the people at the festival,” he said.

So Colliver’s goal is to collect more than 2,000 bras and hang them across the bridge on Main Street before the festival opens.

Throughout the summer, people have been donating new or gently used bras at 38 collection sites. So far, there are close to 1,000 bras for the festival. He wants all of the bras to be given to the Breast Oasis organization, which sends them out to women in shelters.

Donation sites will be open up until the day of the Irish Festival, and there’s a collection bin in the Student Center.

Colliver said he went to the Home Savings Bank to discuss hosting the event on the bank’s plaza. Home Savings Bank human resources employee Mary Sessions was open to his idea, he said, and she mentioned to him that one of their employees, Marisa Manocchio, was going through cancer.

“I figured she would be the perfect candidate for the festival’s honorary chairperson since she is actually from Kent and is still undergoing cancer,” Colliver said.

Manocchio, a 19-year-old mathematics student at Kent State, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in January.

“It was very unexpected,” she said. “I was diagnosed just three days after my birthday and only a week before I was to start at KSU, so it was a let down.”

Her leukemia came as a surprise to her entire family because the disease is not in her family history, and she has no genetic disorders.

Manocchio said she withdrew from all of her spring semester courses at Kent State to begin the chemotherapy process. Manocchio was stuck at home for six months. She visited the university a few times while she was feeling down, but it was a struggle for her.

“Chemotherapy pretty much kicked my butt,” she said. “It was a hassle to get off the couch, but I eventually got used to the treatment.”

Manocchio has at least two more years of chemotherapy.

This summer, she said she has done her best to publicize the Irish Festival. She’s been taking photos at some of the downtown bra donation sites to advertise, she created the Kent Irish Festival Facebook page and she has been working with the Kent State football team to raise money.

There will be dancers from the MacConmara Academy of Irish Dance, live music and food. In addition, Manocchio’s mother, Tia, will read a poem for her daughter.

“(Colliver) has been great,” she said, “He tries to help me get whatever I need because I’m still going through treatment. I’ve got a lot of support from the community because I’m doing this.”

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