Greencastle Relay For Life will 'sparkle' again despite COVID-19

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

After Kim Muller died of breast cancer in August 2019, her family and friends were able to come together to celebrate her life and share their grief.

Megan Barkdoll, Muller's former student, close friend, fellow Greencastle-Antrim Middle School wellness teacher and Greencastle Relay For Life co-chair, thinks about people who were diagnosed with cancer or lost loved ones in 2020 and did not have the same kind of support due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim Muller, left, Steve Biesecker, Megan Barkdoll and Kody Biesecker had fun at the 2019 Greencastle Relay For Life. The American Cancer Society fundraiser, canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is back this year in a different form. In memory of Muller, who died in August 2019, the theme will still be 'Don't Let Cancer Dull Your Sparkle.'

"It's important for the community to know we're still there for them. We're not as hands-on, but we're fighting the battle right alongside them," Barkdoll said.

"COVID-19's the priority right now, but cancer's still out there every day," said kidney cancer survivor Steve Biesecker of Waynesboro, past chair of the Greencastle Relay For Life. He and his wife, Julie, head up logistics for the American Cancer Society fundraiser and their son, Kody, who just turned 12, is the honorary co-chair.

They are among the volunteers rolling up their sleeves and planning a different kind of Relay For Life from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 22.

Instead of people walking multiple laps around the track on the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Kaley Field during 20 hours of activities, this year participants will take a page from the G-A High School Class of 2020 playbook and do one lap through town in decorated vehicles. The parade will start around 7 p.m. and will be followed by a luminaria display on the parking lots behind the high school and middle school.

Cancer survivor Rae Ann Yates was honored at the Greencastle Relay For Life luminaria display in August 2020.

Also being considered are a food truck event earlier in the day and how to continue the popular basket alley, where filled baskets and other prizes created by relay teams are raffled off, in a different format.

In addition to filled baskets, the raffle has included things like fire pits, cornhole boards and wagons filled with plants.

"It's a really fun part of relay and a nice draw moneywise," Barkdoll said. "I think we can still make it happen virtually ... you have a chance to win something, which is always nice."

These plans will be discussed at a virtual kickoff at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 9. Members of the 20-plus teams that are already registered will be contacted, but new or past teams and anyone else who wants to get involved can reach out to Connie Woodruff of the American Cancer Society at connie.woodruff@cancer.org or 717-288-9732.

In 2020

Plans were going strong for the 26th Greencastle Relay For Life in 2020, with the last meeting on March 12, just before Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf shut down the state to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Muller's message was “Never let anyone or anything dull your sparkle" and in her honor "Don't Let Cancer Dull Your Sparkle" was selected as the year's theme.

Originally postponed from May 15 and 16 to an undetermined date, the relay eventually could not be held safely last year due to the pandemic.

Teams did laps on the track at the 2019 Greencastle Relay For Life.

However, many of the teams that hail from throughout Franklin County and part of Fulton County are active and conduct fundraisers such as bingo, breakfasts and raffles all year long. In 2020, the 30 registered teams with 175 participants raised $71,000 toward a goal of around $175,000.

That was without the 20-hour relay itself and its many popular events like the Miss Relay contest and basket alley.

One traditional and moving part of the relay, the luminaria display, was held spur-of-the-moment on an evening in August. The lighted bags were set up at the school complex in memory of those lost to cancer and in honor of those battling the disease. Visitors could tune their radios to WRGG to hear music and the names of honorees during the drive-thru event.

Elijah 'Eli' Englehart, who lost his battle with cancer in March 2020 at age 24, was remembered at the Greencastle Relay For Life luminaria display in August.

Still sparkling

"Don't Let Cancer Dull Your Sparkle" is being held over as the theme for 2021.

Kody Biesecker was tapped as honorary co-chair because of the special bond he shared with Muller, the smiles he brings to any situation and his willingness to help anywhere he's needed. The Waynesboro Area Middle School sixth-grader has been "relaying" with Biesecker's Bunch since he was 3 months old.

“Kim was always the people person and now that’s Kody,” Barkdoll said. “He’s also connected to the next generation of Relayers.”

"I just like being there in general," Kody said.

Steve Biesecker, formerly a career firefighter/operator in Waynesboro and still a volunteer with the Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department, hopes to bring a ladder truck to the parade.

"We want vehicles decorated to show what teams and survivors are in the car. Hopefully, we'll have purple streamers everywhere," said June Hann, a breast cancer survivor and member of the leadership committee. Purple represents every kind of cancer and is the color of Relay For Life.

Members of the Bock family were recognized Greencastle Relay for Life luminarias set up in August 2020.

Vehicles from the parade will be the first through the luminaria display and Barkdoll hopes spectators from the parade will get in their cars and follow behind them.

For more information, including how to dedicate a luminaria, visit www.relayforlife.org/pagreencastle