Beating Back Cancer

ST. MARYS — There’s a reason the event is called a relay and not a race — with the American Cancer Society celebrating 100 years since it started fighting cancer, those who began the organization have long since passed the baton to a new generation.

Many of the early participants in Relay for Life have gone from the survivors list to the list of those the event is “in memory of,” but the idea of a Relay is that eventually a team member will end the Relay against cancer by crossing the finish line with a cure.

As Relay for Life celebrated ACS’s hundredth birthday this year, meeting Friday and Saturday in Memorial Park in St. Marys, team members raised $24,247 in the fight against cancer, short of their $30,000 goal for the year, said Sarah Burke, organizer, but well on the way. During the event, $3,194 was raised, and at least 300 people attended, with 88 cancer survivors in attendance.

By Saturday morning, when the Relay was wrapping up, the chilly and sleepy masses were still walking the park, even as tents came down and signs were rolled up and away for next year.

The quickest fundraiser was a five minute “Miss Relay” contest where local men dressed up as pageant queens and canvassed the crowd for donations, raising $78.11.

Lora Krugh said she’d slept three hours during the 18-hour, overnight event. Team Mojo, named in honor of her mom and dad, Moe and Joan Rammel, had 95 members of the family on the team who turned out for Relay for Life.

“It’s not just our family, but our school family as well,” she said.

With three members expecting children in the next year, they expect team turnout to increase.

While it was the team’s first year, they sold purses, cookies, water and had a game of Plinko for the kids. The new location in Memorial Park worked well, Krugh said.

“It’s intimate and close,” Krugh said. “At first I thought it would be too small, but it wasn’t.”

What Krugh said she liked best “was the connectedness to the living and deceased” during the Luminaria ceremony.

After the Luminaria ceremony one lap was completed in silence.

“It was very emotional and celebratory,” Burke said.

Kathy Jeffries, leading the Riders to the Rescue team, listed the Luminaria ceremony as her favorite part. More than 150 luminaries were sold either in memory of those lost to cancer or in support of survivors.

“We walked the silent lap and everyone walked together but with their own thoughts,” she said.

The Riders to the Rescue team had a penny war and chicken dinners among other fundraisers. In the fall when school starts, members meet, and talk about the theme. A lot of time and manpower goes into the event, she said. Members were staff from the high school affected by cancer, including herself, a survivor.

“I recently hit the one year mark,” she said. “It’s humbling to be part of the club no one wants to be part of. But everyone on the staff has been touched by cancer.”

Kathy Bishir, with Crusaders Against Cancer, said her team had a rummage sale in conjunction with the town-wide yard sale that brought in $750.

Bishir said she had a lot of hope, seeing that people are living longer with cancer, and there are more cures for cancer. She said her favorite moment was the kickoff, when the survivors walk, and the teams walk the track.

“You have the support of your team there, and everyone is gathered together,” she said. “It’s a positive moment.”

The team total for the night was $3,809.

“We brought (money) with us to donate toward finding a cure,” Bishir said. “Cancer is so predominant. We have two survivors on our team so we relay to find a cure ... It’s a comfort to know you’re not alone. If we pool our resources we can find a cure. Hopefully in our lifetime.”