Hundreds fight cancer at Relay for Life

John Irwin and Shawn Hardy
From left, Jerinda Poper, Dwane Laudenslager, Jayden Poper, Joel Poper and Cindy Quillen from the team Family Fight were ready for the weather at the Greencastle Relay for Life Friday evening.

Jerinda Poper has seen first-hand what cancer can do and she is fighting back.

“We are walking for our families,” Poper, a member of the Family Fight Greencastle Relay for Life team, said Friday evening. “My dad has melanoma — and he is fighting every day. My mom had uterine cancer and my grandparents both died of cancer, a lot of different cancers seemed to affect our families.”

Family Fight was among 52 teams — with more than 500 walkers — participating the 23rd annual American Cancer Society fundraiser at Greencastle-Antrim High School’s Kaley Field Friday and Saturday.

This is the third year that the Poper family has participated in the Relay For Life to raise money for cancer research, remember those they have lost and support those who are still fighting.

“I love this. Whoever thought of this deserves a lot of credit because it brings people, strangers even, together for one reason,” said Poper. “It’s crazy to see everyone of all ages, there are kids out here just learning to walk, all the way up to people with walkers and in wheelchairs.”

“Despite the drizzle and, at times, steady rain, the commitment to walk the track was strong. During the team recognition lap at 8 p.m. Friday, the track was filled with participants from every team and as their team names were announced, people raised their arms, gave out shouts and generally filled the stadium with the same enthusiasm that we've been seeing for the past 22 years,” according to Bev Kristine, volunteer publicity chair. “It made all of us who plan the event — and hope for perfect weather — realize, once again, that the commitment to fight back against cancer, to remember loved ones lost and to honor survivors far outweighs the impact of some rain.

“We saw umbrellas go up while listening to Todd Kirkwood share his story of survival and no one missed a minute, just huddled together for a bit more warmth and camaraderie,” Kristine wrote in an email. “Bev Hannah, the luminaria guest speaker, was inspiring and tied the fear of cancer together with the spirit of hope that can evolve after a cancer diagnosis.

“This is the same spirit that Relay tries to embody. And, when it came time to light the luminarias, the track was a bit less full than on a clear, warm night but those who did gather managed to bring the heart of Relay to light,” Kristine continued. “The ceremony and the reading of each name still brought smiles through the tears. So, even though the weather was not great and we had to close down early due to the forecast, Relayers were already planning for next year and their commitment to finish this fight.”

This year’s theme was “We Are Hope,” highlighting the participants who are caring, courageous, determined, passionate, innovative, empathetic and full of hope in the fight against cancer. More than 125 survivors and and their caregivers attended the annual survivor celebration dinner, noted Connie Woodruff, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life community manager.

“We expect to raise over $165,000 with this year's event,” according to Woodruff. “We have some additional sponsorship, matching gifts and team money still coming in over the next several weeks. We continue to credit money for the 2017 event until Aug. 31.”

A Relay for Life wrap-up meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at the Rescue Hose Co., 842 S. Washington St.

For more information, visit www.cancer.org/relay.