More than a thousand community members gathered at Wooster High School June 8-9 to carry out that mission. Participants fought the disease that has stolen the lives of loved ones. Combining their energy and making laps around the track, the 50 teams guided the world on a new route - a route unscathed by cancer.
In its 16 years, the Wooster Relay for Life has raised $3 million for the American Cancer Society. The goal for this year's fundraising was $192,000 and the efforts have exceeded $195,000. Fundraising will continue through August.
"We've said many times in our team information meetings, wouldn't it be great, to be able to one day tell our grandchildren of that long ago disease? Well, we're here to tell you that we are three million times closer to that day," said Dawna Sands, event tri-chair.
The theme of the event was time warp, and the teams were challenged to reflect the different eras with their outfits. Attendants were also educated on the American Cancer Society's milestones throughout those years. Luminaries lined the outside of the track, honoring those who died of cancer and honoring the survivors. A survivor lap kicked off the event, with more than 200 survivors in attendance.
"I think it really gives people a chance to come together and feel like they're doing something to fight cancer. Everyone here knows someone who's been touched by the disease. If you can do some fundraising that helps research or helps support people for treatment, it makes you feel like you're not so powerless," said Kate Yurick, committee member of Relay for Life.
Saralyn Lash, cancer survivor and event tri-chair, shared her story with the community prior to the kickoff. She reinforced the American Cancer Society's sponsorship of birthdays, adding that she wants to see a world with more candles on birthday cakes.
"We are providing years of life for survivors," Lash said, "to work toward a world with more birthdays."
Lash talked about the years added to her life as a cancer survivor. She shared the moments not lost to her. Traveling, graduating college, falling in love, experiencing her first career, moving in with roommates, and wedding dress shopping with her friend were just some of the saved and relished experiences.
"As far as sharing my story, it was emotional and scary, but it was also freeing," Lash said.
Following the announcements and introductions of teams, the relay participants began making laps. The overnight event ensured the battle against cancer would not rest or tire. Teams were walking throughout the early morning hours, spreading messages of optimism and awareness.
"It's kind of like a festival of hope," Yurick added.
Everyone knows of cancer and its aftermath. Most have directly experienced this illness through a family member or friend. While the disease feels insurmountable, it is not. The participants of the relay provided evidence of this with their powerful sense of unity.
"Over the next 18 hours we will laugh, many times we'll cry, but through it all we will know we are here for one reason, and that reason has brought us all together as one to say, cancer will not win," Sands said.
Published: June 14, 2012