With her ability to attend every sporting event and activity for each of her five kids while working three jobs, Anna Perks had already gained a superhuman reputation for appearing in multiple places at once.
"She was supermom," said Patti Crossan, one of Perks' lifelong friends. "Football, baseball, softball, cheerleading, Anna was on the sideline cheering everybody on."
That reputation turned into legend when Perks showed she had the strength to match her speed during her year-long battle with cervical cancer. Perks died on Oct. 1, but her friends don't think she lost the fight, she just ran out of time.
"Even three weeks ago, she was not ready to give up," said Kelli Aussprung. "She never stopped fighting, and we never stopped fighting with her."
Mary Alice Brancato wanted to send Perks off with a proper tribute and took to Facebook to drum up community members for a balloon release Thursday night at Log College Middle School. Brancato's call to action generated a response she never expected, as cars carrying balloons continued to pull into the school parking lot right up until the 6:45 p.m. release.
"I thought maybe 50 people would show up," said Brancato. "This is amazing."
After reading prepared remarks celebrating Perks' dedication to her family and friends, Brancato had the crowd form a large circle in the middle of the field. With a 1, 2, 3, the balloons were released and carried to the sky, many of them carrying messages of support for Perks.
"When we started holding benefits for Anna, we formed Team Perks," said Crossan. "The motto became, 'No One Fights Alone,' and that was the case with Anna. We all stood together with her."