Relay for Life closes in on goal

It was a healing antithesis to the pain that cancer has caused so many people.

It was joyful and funny, energetic and uplifting.

The 19th annual local Relay for Life – to benefit the fight of the American Cancer Society – was held last weekend at Betts Park, and the $93,000 goal is now nearly met. The 425 registered team members walked in $89,000.

“Relayers celebrated loved ones who have battled cancer, remembered those who have lost their lives, and committed to fight back against the disease,” said one of the coordinators, Cindy Brooks.

She was pleased with this year’s event.

“It was a good Relay,” she said of the event, which was held from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday. Team registrations were up, from 19 last year to 29 this year, and “64 survivors participated in the survivors’ lap with over 36 caregivers” at 6 p.m. Saturday. That was “the most teams we’ve had in a few years.”

More than 1,000 luminaries were sold.

And, the fun was unlimited.

Fun laps were run every half hour “to keep people on their toes,” Brooks shared, like the Road to Recovery cardboard car show.

The new teams “really got into it,” Brooks said. They had fun and decorated their team sites.

“I just thought everybody seemed to get into the ‘Summer Fun’ theme,” Brooks said. “Everybody decorated better than they ever did. And, there was a lot of good food this year, too.”

A fight back ceremony was held, during which relayers pledged to take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatments and prevention.

Before the survivors’ lap, the National Anthem was sung by members of the local Barbershoppers, and speakers included Glenn (a cancer survivor) and Amy Brooks (a caregiver), members of the ACS Voices of Hope. A list of survivor names was read by members of the Cancer Center Team. The survivor lap is walked each year as survivors walk to celebrate their victory over cancer. A caregivers lap was held to recognize those who have given care to cancer patients.

A luminary ceremony to honor loved ones who have died or are fighting cancer was held at 9 p.m. starting with the lighting of the luminary bags around the track , the word “HOPE” spelled out with luminary on the hillside and a PowerPoint presentation of their names and photos displayed on a giant screen.

DJ Matt Hanson of Warren provided music and entertainment throughout the event. Games and activities were available for kids of all ages, including a dunking booth. A “photo” scavenger hunt was held a midnight. Raffles were available, including a mystery raffle in which many sites had wrapped mystery prizes. There also were auctions and items for sale

On Sunday, a worship service was held at the bocce courts at 7 a.m., coordinated by the Rev. Doug McCracken, a member of the Warren Ministerial from the Warren Alliance Church. Music was provided by the Rev. Bill Hargenrader Warren Church of God, and prayer was offered by the Rev. Dorothy Hilliard of Faith Fellowship Church of God.

“The speakers were awesome,” Brooks said.

At 9 a.m., teams gathered for a closing ceremony followed by final laps.

Co-chairpersons for this year’s event were Cheryl and Rich Gruber.

Donations are still being accepted, marked for “Relay for Life,” until Aug. 1. For information, call the American Cancer Society office in Warren at 723-5781 or e-mail Marie Costello at marie.costello@cancer.org. For more information on Relay or the American Cancer Society visit www.cancer.org.