WELLSBURG - Like the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life itself, a kickoff dinner for the event had moments both serious and fun.
The Wellsburg Banquet Hall was decorated for the event with colorful balloons and popcorn boxes, with Warwood clowns Dum-Dum and Duh-Duh offering animal balloons and face painting.
It was a hint of things to come, as this year's relay - in its 15th year - will have a circus theme.
BATTLE?CONTINUES — Michelle Huffman of Wellsburg described her ongoing battle against cancer and the support of many community members during a kickoff dinner for the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Relay for Life at the Wellsburg Banquet Hall. The relay will be held June 2-3 at Brooke High School. Seated to her left are, from left, Paul and Tammy Hornick, co-chairs for the event; and Dave Secrist, the relay’s chairman. Sandy Yankura also is serving as co-chairman.
A number of attendees, young and old, got into the spirit by donning their clown makeup and wigs and other costumes inspired by the big top.
But the event's serious purpose wasn't forgotten as numerous cancer survivors were called up to be recognized, and Michelle Huffman of Wellsburg, as guest speaker, described her own ongoing battle against the disease.
A California native, Huffman said when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27, many of her young friends stayed away because they couldn't deal with it.
When cancer re-entered her life last year, she and her husband Alan, a New Cumberland native who brought her to West Virginia with him, were overwhelmed by the support they received from the community.
Paul Bodenhammer and Rob Hilt, two regulars at the pair's Mexican restaurant, spearheaded a 5K run/walk in November to raise money for her treatment.
Huffman said she expected about 50 to turn out and would have been pleased with that but was moved when more than 200 showed.
"It meant so much to my family and me that we had touched so many people," she said.
Huffman added, "Thank you, God, for all the wonderful people who help us out through the journey of life."
Each year cancer survivors and supporters of all ages turn out for hundreds of Relays for Life held throughout the U.S. and in 21 countries to raise money for cancer education, prevention and patient service programs supported by the American Cancer Society.
Dave Secrist, who is chairing the event with the help of co-chairs Paul and Tammy Hornick and Sandy Yankura, said the team will work to involve more youth in the Brooke-Hancock relay.
In recent years local schools have supported the cause through their own mini relays and other fundraisers.
During the dinner Madison Campa, an eighth-grader at Burgettstown Junior-Senior High School, raised $1,318 through bids for the right to cut 10 inches of her hair. She explained the hair, which she has grown over the last two years, will be donated so it may be used for a wig for a cancer patient. Doing the cutting were Marci Campa, her mother; and Molly Johnston, her aunt; whose table of family members, friends and other attendees cobbled together the cash as Secrist played auctioneer.
Madison also has formed a relay team at her school.
Steve Lauck, chairman of the relay's entertainment committee, said this year's event will include a variety of activities. They will include a three-ring circus featuring local talent recruited by the Trudy's Place relay team; a lip-synching competition involving relay teams; the Ms. Relay for Life Pageant, with male contestants in drag; music by a band and disc jockey as well as karaoke; a cake walk and a morning zumba session led by Cindy Petri of Fusion Fitness.
The cost to participate is $10 per person. Much of the money raised by the event comes through fundraisers held by the teams in advance.
More than 20 area businesses organizations are serving as sponsors, and organizers have offered to post signs along the walking track to recognize anyone who makes a $100 donation.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)