WELLSBURG - Hundreds gathered Saturday at Brooke Memorial Stadium with signs, luminaries and t-shirts to honor loved survivors and those they've lost to cancer during the 14th-annual Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
"This year we have around 800 registered participants and 45 teams, of which 18 are new this year. Last year we raised $81,000 and we're hoping to reach a goal of $85,000 this year," said Dave Secrist, chairman of the event. Co-chairs Paul and Tammy Hornick and Sandy Yankura were also in attendance.
The relay started at 6 p.m. Saturday and concluded at 6 a.m. today, and included a a mix of live music, games for all ages and other activities for participants to enjoy when not walking on the track.
WALK FOR LIFE — Cancer survivors lined the track at Brooke Memorial Stadium in Wellsburg on Saturday along with hundreds of other area participants for the 14th-annual Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The event began at 6 p.m. Saturday and concluded at 6 a.m. today.
During opening ceremonies, Secrist said the starting and closing times of the event are meant to symbolize an individual's battle with cancer - starting with the sun before diagnosis, the night mirroring the fight and darkness and the rising of the sun that brings hope and recovery.
The event was circus-themed this year and featured entertainment organized by the Trudy's Place relay team at midnight. Other entertainment included a lip-synching contest, a firefighters' challenge and more. Secrist said another favorite event is the Ms. Relay for Life contest in which guys were invited to dress in drag.
He said while the event is meant to be fun, it goes from "laughter to tears and everything in between" during the luminaria ceremony held at 10 p.m.
"I'm just very passionate about the event and believe in the cause. It's my way of giving back and it touches everyone personally," said Secrist.
Penny Foose, captain of Christians for a Cure, an organization of the Follansbee Church of Christ, said she participates because her mother passed away two years ago from ovarian cancer and her father is a cancer survivor.
"It affects all ages, from the young to the elderly. Last year there was a 10 year old survivor participating," said Foose.
Christians for a Cure has been running the concession stand at the event for the past eight years as one of the church's fundraisers.
Dottie Cox, co-captain, said more than anything the relay is just a good way to remember.
"It's amazing how many people come and talk and it's just emotional. It's good to reminisce and important to remember," said Cox.
The opening lap is always walked by survivors and this year was no different. Each participant introduced themselves and told the crowd what type of cancer they had and for how long before walking.
Among those survivors was Edyth Whitehair, a 10-year breast cancer survivor that has participated for six years.
She's easy to spot - sporting clothing signed with hundreds of names, in addition to her signed pink umbrella and hat.
Her son Mickey Whitehair owns Chilly Willy's Hot Dogs in Weirton, and while she is working the clothing is hanging at the ready for donations and signatures.
This year, Whitehair donated $4,700 to the American Cancer Society and over the past six years she has donated close to $15,000 for the cause.
She currently has a 62-year-old son battling pancreatic cancer and she said he might not survive.
"I just do it with the hope of a cure for cancer," said Whitehair.