Greencastle Relay for Life teams mobilizing

PAT FRIDGEN
Kayla Burcker and Karen Showalter are co-chairmen of Greencastle Relay for Life. The event is set for May 13 and 14 at Kaley Field, with a fundraising goal of $209,000.

‘Dare to Dream’ is the local focus of the 2011 Relay for Life of Greencastle. The national theme continues to be ‘Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back’.

Volunteers and American Cancer Society employees are gearing up for the May 13-14 event in Greencastle. The goal for the 17th annual Relay for Life is $209,000. A new face is at the head of the promotional effort to encourage individuals and teams to participate in the two-day function that celebrates life, remembers those who lost their lives to cancer, and raises money to aid those fighting the disease.

Kayla Burcker, 28, joined returning RFL co-chair Karen Showalter to lead the committees organizing the popular event. They met with 70 people Jan. 10 at Greencastle United Methodist Church for the kickoff meeting with team leaders and members.

Erin Geiser, community income development specialist for the ACS, also addressed the crowd, calling for everyone to always dream for a cure. With the highest monetary goal ever set, she also hoped 72 teams would sign up, and the count was already at 42.

Taken by surprise

Burcker, a nurse practioner with the Chambersburg and Waynesboro hospitalist group, was on a relay team in 2010, and stepped up to a leadership position this year. Her reasons were personal.

She cares for cancer patients on a daily basis, and she herself underwent a clean PET scan in August. The nuclear medicine imaging gave her good news, compared to the bad news she received in October 2009, when she was diagnosed with melanoma.

“It’s full circle for me,” Burcker said. “I didn’t have cancer half as bad as other people do. As co-chair, I can practice what I preach.”

She sought medical attention when she noticed a bubble-gum pink growth on her abdomen, which measured 5.5 millimeters. Its’ appearance was not consistent with the images typical in materials that advocated checking for changes on moles.

Burcker had surgery, the only cure for her type of skin cancer. It had not reached the lymph nodes, which could have sent the disease throughout her body. She doesn’t know why she contracted it, but acknowledged she fell into the genetic risk category, which included factors such as fair skin, blonde hair and freckles. The disease is also related to sunburns before the age of 13, but shows up in areas not exposed to the sun. In her profession, she witnessed cases of even children being diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

Burcker now sees the physician every three months, and will continue to do so for five years, when she can be declared cured.

“I like to talk about it,” she said of the educational value, “and I don’t take things for granted any more.”

Teams still welcome

RFL is a non-competitive event where team members walk or run around the track for 24 hours from 4 p.m. Friday to 4 p.m. Saturday. The committee plans games, entertainment, food and activities for a block-party like atmosphere over the two days.

The money raised goes towards patient services, advocacy, education and research for Franklin County.

Showalter and Burcker welcome teams and individuals to register and volunteer to help, as there are many specialized committees. Guidelines and information are available at the ACS office in Chambersburg at 264-6266.

Cancer survivors are invited to walk a victory lap the evening of  May 13. The luminary ceremony follows at 9:30 p.m. The lighted bags may be purchased for $10 to honor or remember loved ones. They will line the walking path.

The committee also is offering a cash drawing as a way to raise funds. The payouts will be $500, $400, $300, $200 and $100.

“Last year we printed 1,000 tickets and blew through them,” said Geiser, “so this year we made 2,000. People are very receptive to this.”