WELLSBURG - "Celebrate," "Fight back" and "Remember" were printed on the red, blue, purple and white banners carried before the many cancer survivors who took the first lap of the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life Saturday at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
The banners were carried to the top of the stadium by survivors Linda Abercrombie, Cathy Karey and Charlene Smith as the theme from "Rocky" was played. And the words summed up the purpose and spirit of the event, which raised more than $70,000 for cancer education, prevention, research and patient services supported by the American Cancer Society.
Dave Secrist, who coordinated the event with the help of co-chairs Paul and Tammy Hornick, noted Relay teams have been working since early this year to raise funds for the cause.
YOUTHFUL?ENTHUSIASM — “Celebrating More Birthdays” is the theme of the American Cancer Society, and many children took the second lap of the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life Saturday at Brooke Memorial Stadium.
"They have been selling candy, holding car washes and bingos - you name it, they've done it," he said.
Secrist also expressed appreciation to the many local businesses that sponsored the event, supplying food, materials, services and other assistance that helped to make it a success.
Paul Hornick said this year's event drew at least 564 participants, including about 100 survivors. They included people of all ages, from 82-year-old Edyth Whitehair, a survivor of breast cancer; and 10-year-old Austin Powell, who is undergoing treatment for recurring brain tumors.
John D'Aurora, a cancer survivor from Follansbee, said taking the first lap is a moving experience for him.
"The people who have survived, who are in treatment - they're all out there. I don't know how to describe it," he said.
Many relay participants also have been moved by the lighting of luminaria in honor or memory of loved ones who have dealt with cancer.
Janet Crawford of Wellsburg said her mother died of cancer 16 years ago and she has been involved in the relay every year.
Harold Calvert of Wellsburg said he lost his mother and father to cancer and has participated in the relay in each of the last three years, though his work schedule usually doesn't allow him to stay through the night.
But the many who stayed through the night, taking breaks between laps in tents they pitched near the stadium, were treated to a midnight birthday party that capitalized the American Cancer Society's theme of ensuring more birthdays are celebrated through cancer prevention and treatment.
Paul Hornick said research supported by the American Cancer Society has led to such developments as a medication that has helped many women to beat breast cancer.
D'Aurora said advances in medicine have helped many with cancer.
"The advancements have come a long way. If not for them, some of us wouldn't be here," he said.
Gaye Cheripko of Follansbee, a cancer survivor and past Relay for Life co-chairman, said, "I like the camaraderie (of the event) - getting all the survivors together and showing people there is hope. And this year I really like all of the children involved."
Secrist said all Brooke County schools held fundraisers of some kind, and the Relay for Life committee is working to involve more Hancock County schools.
This year Weir High School and Broadview Elementary School joined Follansbee and Wellsburg middle schools in staging their own mini-relays. And Brooke High School raised $950 through various fundraisers.
Secrist said members of Brooke County 4-H clubs set up the luminaria this year, the Tri-State Young Marines conducted the flag raising while Follansbee Middle School pupil Taylor Pannett performed the national anthem.
In addition, all children on hand for the event were invited to take the second lap.
The event was threatened by rain a few times but it didn't disrupt a midnight birthday party held in keeping with the American Cancer Society's theme this year of ensuring "more birthdays" through cancer prevention and treatment.
Relay participants could bid on mystery items wrapped as birthday presents.
They also could bid on a chance to cut the hair of Jen McHenry of the Hancock County Savings Bank relay team, who announced plans to donate her locks to a charity that uses them to supply wigs for cancer patients.
Two bidders who offered $400 each got to do the cutting.
The relay's teams also participated in various contests. The Pennies from Heaven team from WesBanco and led by Donna Donahue was judged to have the best decorated campsite, while the Walking Warriors, a team captained by Becky Cruny, was recognized for producing the best flag.
A heavy rainstorm led to an early conclusion for the event, but it was only a couple hours before the planned closing time.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)