The kick-off to 25 years of hope in the fight against cancer through the Greencastle Relay For Life was held Tuesday in the multi-purpose room at the Rescue Hose Co.

Survivors, family members and friends gathered at tables strewn with confetti to begin planning for the 2019 fundraiser that will be held from 4 p.m. Friday, May 17, to noon Saturday, May 18, on Kaley Field at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Megan Barkdoll and Kim Muller, Greencastle-Antrim Middle School wellness teachers, are chairing the Relay For Life for the second year. They also are members of the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Blue/Gold Cancer Crusaders Relay team.

In honor of its birthday/anniversary milestone, the theme for 2019 is "Wishing for a Cure." The core mission of the Relay is "Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back."

There are somber moments in the Relay because of lives lost to cancer, but it is also a celebration of survivors and the community that has pitched in to support the effort, Barkdoll said.

Back in time 

Relay For Life was introduced locally at a Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce breakfast in the winter of 1995 by the American Cancer Society, according to Bev Kristine of Mont Alto, a 25-year-plus breast cancer survivor and 25-year Relay for Life participant.

She remembers a co-worker, whose husband was at the breakfast, brought a VCR tape about Relay for Life to Regency Thermographers and said, "We gotta do this."

The Greencastle-Antrim School District had recently lost superintendent Dr. Robert Pascale to cancer and was "totally on board because they walked through his journey with him," said Kristine.

That year, 250 walkers on 27 teams raised $25,000.

Because it started at a chamber function, many of the original Relay teams represented businesses and organizations, such as First National Bank of Greencastle and the Rotary Club. Some of them don't exist any more, but many original walkers continue the fight with teams now made up of family, friends, fellow church and organization members and co-workers.

Carol Eberly started with the Regency team and now is part of the Patriotic Steppers. She walks for her husband and daughter, both survivors, and her mother and two sisters, who were claimed by the disease.

"We're like a little Relay family," Barkdoll said about the team chairs and other organizers who came in, sat down and started catching up with one another before the meeting began. "What we've created here is pretty amazing."

Going around the room, everyone introduced themselves and said how long they've been involved.

Applause went up for people like Linda Stoler, who started with the Citizens Bank team at the first Relay and now is with Salem Church and Jim and Diane Hughes, whose Relay tenure totals 24 years in Berlin, Pennsylvania, Mifflin County and Greencastle, where they run the store during the Relay.

The Greencastle-Antrim Lioness Club helps with various activities, like the survivors' reception and the luminarias. Members Marlene Duffey and Sharon Martin, have been involved since the beginning and Jan Eppleman is in her 18th or 19th year.

"We have such a good core group, there's so much support," said Muller, a breast cancer survivor since 2002.

Like Old Home Week 

Next year is also the triennial Old Home Week celebration in Greencastle and organizers want to the Relay For Life to feel a like a homecoming, too.

They are hoping former participants will come back, either individually or as a team.

"We want to make it special because it is an anniversary year ... like Old Home Week at the Relay," said June Hann.

Former Relay entertainers, like Clarissa's School of the Performing Arts, also are being asked to return, Barkdoll said. She said entertainment and other activities will be planned Saturday morning to encourage families to return to Kaley Field.

By the numbers 

Since the first year, the Greencastle Relay For Life has raised more than $3 million in the fight against cancer.

Last year, 43 teams brought in more than $169,000, even though the event had to be moved inside the Greencastle-Antrim High School gym due to dismal weather.

So far, 24 for teams are lined up for 2019. Muller said they are hoping for more than 40 teams and the goal is $170,000.

The luminaria ceremony with flickering candles is one of the moving events Friday night and Barkdoll said teams are being challenged to each sell 25 bags in advance, which would start things off with more than 1,000 lights around the track. In addition, the word "HOPE" will be built on the bleachers on bags bearing team names.

Participants, volunteers and sponsors can go to:

relayforlife.org

Or contact Barkdoll or Muller at:

m.barkdoll@hotmail.com

kamuller14@gamail.com