Participants enjoy parade in Greencastle, but miss traditional Relay For Life

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

A parade of vehicles went through Greencastle Saturday evening in a COVID-19 hybrid of the Relay For Life.

For the second year, the American Cancer Society fundraiser could not be held in its usual form at the Greencastle-Antrim School District's Kaley Field due to the coronavirus.

The Greencastle Relay For Life is traditionally held in mid-May and draws hundreds of participants from throughout Franklin County and part of Fulton County.

A Relay For Life inflatable dances in the wind.

"It's not the same, but we really wanted to provide something," said Megan Barkdoll, Relay chairperson.

The first group of vehicles in the parade carried cancer survivors.

The second leg featured members of Relay For Life teams who normally would be circling the track, attending moving ceremonies and enjoying fun activities like the Miss Relay contest for men and paparazzi laps.

"We hope to all be back around the track next year ... hugs, laughter and back to making Relay memories," said Barkdoll, who added this is the Relay's 27th year and more teams and volunteers are always welcome.

A Relay story

Steve and Julie Biesecker and their son, Kody, 12, were at the head of the parade in a decorated truck.

A display of 36 Relay For Life T-shirts hanging over the lawn in front of Greencastle-Antrim High School was just part of their collection accumulated over the years.

"It's our Relay story," Julie Biesecker said.

Members of Biesecker's Bunch — Steve, Kody and Julie Biesecker — are ready to lead the Greencastle Relay For Life parade on May 22. A kidney cancer survivor, Steve Biesecker is a former Relay for Life chairman, he and his wife head up logistics for the annual American Cancer Society fundraiser and their son is the honorary chairman.

Steve Biescker, a kidney cancer survivor, chaired the Relay for a number of years, and the couple now handles logistics.

Kody was just 3 months old at his first Relay and has been honorary co-chair for two years.

"It feels nice to be here," Kody said. "It feels better having this than having nothing."

Kody's special friendship with Kim Muller is part of the reason for his honorary role.

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Muller helmed the Relay with Barkdoll, her fellow Greencastle-Antrim Middle School wellness teacher, for two years before losing her battle with breast cancer in August 2019.

Muller was known for her upbeat attitude and her message was “Never let anyone or anything dull your sparkle."

Survivors and supporters

June Hann, a breast cancer survivor, wore a T-shirt bearing the Relay motto for 2020 and 2021 that honors Muller: "Don't Let Cancer Dull Your Sparkle."

"It feels good to be here doing something, even though it's modified," said Hann, a member of the leadership committee. "I'm wishing we were on the track, but maybe next year."

June Hann, a breast cancer survivor and member of the leadership committee, waits for the Relay For Life parade to begin.

Others survivors at the front of the parade included Larry Williams, who sat with his wife, Kathy, and granddog Shiloh, a chocolate Lab, waiting for the parade to begin, and Isabelle Fox, participating in her first Relay event and affiliated with the Greencastle Church of the Brethren team.

The second wave of participants was made up of Relay For Life team members, including June Hann's daughter, Jennifer Hann, and granddaughter, Sarah Hann.

They are part of the Nutty's Buddies team, Jennifer said, explaining name derives from her nutty brother Norman Hann Jr., "who always inspires us to raise more money."

They walk in honor of June Hann and in memory of her husband Norman Hann Sr., lost to leukemia, and many other family members affected by cancer, she said.

"That's why we have so many colors on our banner — there are so many in our family," Jennifer Hann said.

The banner displayed on the back of her vehicle featured a circle of many different cancer ribbons and the words "We walk to make a difference together."

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'We walk for those who no longer can'

Another banner on a pickup truck in the parade said, "Cancer, Better watch out cuz Cookie's Crew is gonna walk all over you."

A dozen family members in tie-dye, purple and other Relay For Life T-shirts sat in the bed and surrounded the truck before the parade began.

Adele 'Cookie' Lehman, her daughter, Sherri Field, and 'countless others lost' are remembered by the Relay For Life teams Cookie's Crew and Sherri's Army.

They are part of a combined Relay group of the teams Cookie's Crew and Sherri's Army, named in memory of Adele "Cookie" Lehman and her daughter, Sherri Field.

"We walk for those who no longer can," said another banner on the truck.

Three generations were in the parade. The youngest, Preston Reyer, 15 months, is Lehman's great-grandson and Field's grandson.

"It's nice to be back around these guys again," said Field's daughter, Sam O'Bryan, who just moved back to the area from California two weeks ago. Over the years, she's been able to come home and participate in a few Relays while serving in the military.

"I wish we could be walking like normal," said Becky Rippeon, Lehman's daughter and Field's sister. "The luminaries are always a highlight."

Lights of hope

Illuminated bags bearing the names of cancer victims and cancer survivors normally ring the track at Kaley Field for a luminaria ceremony during the Relay For Life.

Saturday evening, 249 luminarias were set up across the parking lots behind the middle school and high school.

Relay For Life co-chair Kim Muller, who lost her battle with breast cancer in August 2019, is among those remembered and honored in the display of 249 luminarias.

Before the parade started, some people had already visited their luminarias, Barkdoll said.

"It's a time to remember the one you're honoring," Barkdoll said.

After the parade through Greencastle, the procession of survivors and teams went through the luminaria display, which also was open to the public.

The Relay goes on

"Tonight is not an endpoint ... it's a highlight," said Connie Woodruff, American Cancer Society representative.

Relay For Life fundraising takes place throughout the year. By the time of the parade, about $50,000 had been raised in cash and pledges toward the 2021 goal of $80,250.

Basket Alley is a popular event during the normal Relay for Life. Some teams are already filling baskets and an online auction is being planned for late summer or early fall.

For more, visit the Greencastle Relay For Life website.