TROY — Severe thunderstorm warnings did nothing to prevent more than 150 cancer survivors, as well as hundreds of family, friends, and supporters, from kicking off this year’s Miami County Relay for Life in high spirits.
Now in its 24th year in Miami County and its 30th year worldwide, the Relay for Life aims to bring together local residents to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
“This year, we had approximately 40 teams that registered,” said event co-chair Belinda Anderson, who herself is a cancer survivor. “That came to approximately 373 participants. We had over 150 survivors, and approximately that many caregivers.”
Friday night’s opening ceremony kicked off with a survivor celebration featuring all registered survivors providing their names and the number of years they’ve survived. Various commemorative laps kicked off the relay, including a survivors’ lap, a caregiver lap, and a series of team intro laps, as well as a dinner held on the grounds for all survivors.
After nightfall, participants held a special vigil, lighting the walkways with luminarias adorned with names of individuals who have lost their battle with cancer, are currently fighting cancer, or have managed to overcome it.
The relay set a fundraiser goal of $130,000 this year, and as of Friday night, the funds raised totalled almost $150,000. Anderson, along with co-chair Robin Hetzler, agree that the Relay for Life is vital to the fight against cancer, and hugely beneficial to all survivors who participate.
“As a survivor, I relay to raise awareness, and I relay for research,” Anderson said, “We all have a different reason to relay. We have many types of survivors with different longevity of surviving, but we want to keep that going.
“People need medication, and drugs are very expensive. They can be anywhere from five dollars to thousands of dollars a month, and people need all the support they can get.”
“The relay is important, because it’s so empowering to those who’ve been diagnosed,” Hetzler said, who is an eight-year survivor of breast cancer. “When a cancer patient says they’re tired, it’s a tired that a non-patient doesn’t understand. It doesn’t matter what cancer you’ve had, or what kind of treatment you’ve gone through — when you say you’re tired, another survivor knows that feeling. This event helps people bond together, and Miami County has been very supportive to its survivors.”
“This community has just been one of the most generous, courageous communities I’ve seen do Relay for Life,” said Brittany Donnellon, executive director of American Cancer Society. “I’ve been involved with this event for 15 years, and they amaze me every single year. Every time I come back, we have more survivors. We know how to celebrate life up here, and we know how to honor those we’ve lost.”
The Relay for Life will continue at the fairgrounds through Saturday at noon. A special car show will be held at the fairgrounds at 9 a.m., with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. Dash plaques will be given to the first 50 registered vehicles.
Next year will mark Miami County’s 25th year holding the Relay for Life. The event is set for June 7-8, 2019, with registration opening Sunday, July 1.
According to Anderson and Hetzler, the special plans for 2019’s milestone relay are “top-secret.”
“If people want to know more before the event opens, they’ll have to get involved in the planning committee,” Hetzler exclaimed.
Relay For Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Relay is staffed and coordinated by volunteers in thousands of communities and 27 countries. Volunteers give of their time and effort because they believe it’s time to take action against cancer.
For more information, visit www.acsevents.org.
Reach Cody Willoughby at email@example.com.