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Canton resident honors dad, assists veterans with inspiring 5K race

 Canton resident honors dad, assists veterans with inspiring 5K race

Monica Viola stands near Canton’s Veterans Memorial Garden. A plaque recognizing her late father’s military service is included at the site near the Village Arts Factory.

Like most 79-year-old structures, the Canton veterans dormitory originally funded by Henry Ford for military personnel transitioning to civilian life after fighting in World War II is in need of some tender loving care.

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Thanks to people like township resident Monica Viola, the TLC is coming ASAP.

Using a 5K run format as a vital fundraiser, Viola is honoring her father Stanley Synowiec — a Vietnam veteran who passed away in 2017 from cancer linked to Agent Orange exposure while fighting on the frontlines of the war from 1966-68 — and assisting with repairs for the dormitory, which still serves as a short-term home for transitioning military personnel.

Orchestrated by the efforts of Viola and a team of volunteers, the second annual Agent Orange Awareness 5K is set for Saturday, Aug. 26, at 9 a.m.

Picturesque route

The 5K route’s starting line is near the Village Arts Factory and weaves through the nearby picturesque Cherry Hill Village subdivision.

Monica Viola is pictured with her late father Stanley Synowiec.
Monica Viola is pictured with her late father Stanley Synowiec

Those interested in running or walking in the event (and potential sponsors) should visit villageartsfactory.com/events. The $35 registration fee (which goes up to $45 beginning Aug. 1) includes a cool medal for all participants.

A quarter-mile fun run for kids has been added to the race agenda this year. The fun run is free for all kids who donate a non-perishable food item, toiletry or pack of socks.

The 5K will help kick off the two-day Cherry Hill Village Festival, which will feature food, music, vendors and fun.

Last year’s inaugural 5K event raised nearly $6,000, the bulk of which was used to repair the dormitory’s leaky roof.

“Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve wanted to do something to honor his legacy and to help veterans in our community,” Viola said. “I had heard 5K’s do well as fundraisers, so I got the ball rolling on this event.

A photo of people who participated in the inaugural Agent Orange Awareness 5K.
A photo of people who participated in the inaugural Agent Orange Awareness 5K

“When I learned that the dormitory was in need of repairs, I thought that would be a great cause, so I reached out to the people who run it and they were very receptive to my idea.”

Higher goals

Viola set her fundraising goal for this year’s race at $10,000.

“Parts of the chimney are crumbling and the interior cabinetry and floors need work,” Viola said, when asked what the proceeds from the 2023 5K will go toward.

“Along with helping with repairs, I’m happy that the race has raised awareness for the dormitory, which I’ve learned a lot of Canton residents didn’t know about. The dormitory gives veterans a way to get back to civility after being deployed by providing them with the support and housing they need.”

Stanley Synowiec’s cancer was originally detected in his throat — his larynx, affected lymph nodes and voice box were removed — but doctors later determined the disease started in his bladder and had spread.

Synowiec worked diligently to get the government to recognize his cancer was a direct cause from the Vietnam war so he could secure long-term medical support for him and his wife, who still resides in Canton.

‘My dad is my hero’

“I started this 5K to honor my dad because he truly was — and still is — my hero,” Viola said. “I think my dad would be proud of what I’m doing because he wanted other veterans to get the help they needed, too.

Canton resident Monica Viola points to the plaque that pays tribute to her father, Stanley Synowiec, a Vietnam veteran who passed away in 2017 from cancer linked to Agent Orange exposure.
Canton resident Monica Viola points to the plaque that pays tribute to her father Stanley Synowiec a Vietnam veteran who passed away in 2017 from cancer linked to Agent Orange exposure

“I’ve read many stories of veterans who passed away before they got the benefits they so rightly deserved for fighting for their country and I wanted to find a way to help veterans in some way, too.”

Along with sponsorships and race registration fees, funds are being raised with $30 donations that pay for 5K route signs that honor and memorialize military veterans.

If you have a good-news story idea for SocialHouseNews.com, please contact Ed Wright at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

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Ed Wright

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