Before The Avengers reassemble late this month with their Marvel Universe allies to defeat the powerful supervillain Thanos, their original 2012 adventure will be screened at the State Theatre to combat an all-too-real enemy of mankind: cancer.
Leading the charge are members of Modesto High School's Panthers For a Cure club (any relations to the Black Panther?), including President Shelby Benz, a junior whose mom is a cancer survivor.
Shelby's mother, Patricia, was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer during the second semester of the student's freshman year. "I didn't think anything like that could happen to me or my close family," the student said Wednesday outside the State, where the benefit will be held Friday night, "and I was inspired to take initiative and participate in the fight with her."
The club picked "The Avengers" for a couple of reasons. "Superhero enterprises have the ability to make life seem a little more magical and our existence in the world seem a little more powerful," Shelby said. "The theme of the event is 'Be a hero for yourself. Be a hero for others,' representative of the internal fight against cancer and the widespread, social movement rallying behind the cause."
And with "Avengers: Infinity War" hitting theaters April 27, the benefit gives fans a chance to revisit the original on the big screen as a refresher. A nice additional touch, Shelby said, is that hometown Avenger Jeremy Renner plays Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, in the franchise.
The benefit screening includes the silent auction of a couple of pieces of Avengers memorabilia: a signed photo by Clark Gregg, who plays Agent Phil Coulson in "The Avengers" and the TV spinoff "Agents of SHIELD," and a Pop! figure of Black Widow signed by Scarlett Johansson.
Other fundraising elements of the evening will be henna body art done by members of the Modesto High Henna My Heart club, a raffle of prizes from local businesses, and jars of honey for sale by Shelby, who in addition to being a volleyball player, International Baccalaureate student and editor of The Panther Press is a beekeeper.
All this cements Shelby's status as a superhero to her mom. "I think one of the scariest things about cancer is that other people's lives get derailed," Patricia Benz said. "It was really important for me to keep her on track, that she didn't go backward because of this."
Not only did Shelby not slide, but "she got involved, she took this on, and I'm really proud of her. I couldn't ask for more."
Benz, now cancer-free for two years, said she wasn't aware for a while that the Panthers For a Cure club was pursuing the benefit — negotiating a rental price with the State, securing auction and raffle donations and laying other groundwork.
On Wednesday, Shelby said about 180 of the $12 admission tickets had been preordered. If the club can sell 300, it will make about $1,600 in profits. If it can sell out the 560-seat theater, the profit will be more like $5,000, she said. All profits will be donated to cancer-fighting organizations, specifically the American Cancer Society.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Friday for the 7 p.m. showtime. Tickets can be purchased at TheState.org.