Relay kicks off with tears and sparkle
Young Kody Biesecker did his job well as honorary co-chair of the American Cancer Society's 2020 Greencastle Relay For Life before Tuesday's kick-off meeting.
"He's my smiles," Relay Chair Megan Barkdoll said with tears in her eyes.
The evening had an emotional start when, after a dreary day, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared over Greencastle just before the meeting, reminding Barkdoll and other Relay supporters of Kim Muller.
Muller co-chaired the past two Relays with Barkdoll, her fellow Greencastle-Antrim Middle School wellness teacher. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in 2012, she died Aug. 17 at age 53.
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was one of the songs played at her memorial service, and there were three rainbows in the sky that week and another one on a colleague's birthday, Barkdoll explained.
Muller and Barkdoll worked together at the middle school for 13 years and shared a deep bond — Muller was even Barkdoll's teacher her senior year in high school.
"She was my best friend," Barkdoll said.
Muller's message to others was "Never let anyone or anything dull your sparkle" and in her honor, the theme of the 2020 Relay For Life is "Don’t Let Cancer Dull Your Sparkle."
Kody brought his own sparkle to the table, making Barkdoll and June Hann, a breast cancer survivor and member of the Relay leadership team, smile as they tearfully remembered Muller.
"Kim was always happy and could not send a text without an emoji. She was never sad," said Kody, a fifth-grader at Fairview Elementary School in Waynesboro.
He recalled tooling around in a golf cart and taking selfies at this year's Relay with Muller, Barkdoll and his father, Steve Biesecker. Kody got to drive.
The 10-year-old son of Steve and Julie Biesecker has been involved in the Relay For Life "my whole life," attending his first one with the team Biesecker's Bunch when he was 3 months old.
Steve Biesecker was diagnosed with kidney cancer 15 years ago this week and also lost his cousin and Waynesboro Fire Department partner Rob Biesecker three years ago. Steve Biesecker chaired the Relay For Life for six years before selecting Muller and Barkdoll, who both had been involved for many years, as his successors.
"Kim was always the people person and now that's Kody," Barkdoll said. "He's also connected to the next generation of Relayers."
"He likes to talk about Relay," his father added.
Kody is part of a big group that Barkdoll said makes her role easier.
"The committees are there 100% so there's not a huge weight on me," she said.
Tuesday's meeting included "pepping everyone up to go out and spread the word," Barkdoll said, adding the local Relay For Life community encompasses all of Franklin County and part of Fulton County.
She wants to bring new people and new faces into that community, especially for the activities recognizing cancer survivors and fighters.
"We want to encourage all survivors to sparkle," Barkdoll said. "Kim didn't let her sickness define her ... her sparkle is in me, my children, her students ... it's spread so wide."
“Kim’s healthy, upbeat attitude toward life throughout her cancer journey lives on as an example of how, despite facing a devastating disease, a person can choose to live. In Kim’s case, she never 'lost her sparkle,'" according to Hann.
"As Relay family, it is our wish for all survivors that they can continue to live and smile and sparkle through the hardships and emotions that come along with the words 'You have cancer,'" Barkdoll said.
The 26th Greencastle Relay For Life will be held on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16, 2020, on the track at Greencastle-Antrim High School's Kaley Field. It includes events celebrating and remembering those affected by cancer, such as the survivors' lap and luminaria ceremony, and fun activities like the Miss Relay contest and paparazzi laps for selfies.
During the Relay, each team has at least on member on the track at all times because cancer never sleeps.
This year, the Relay For Life raised $178,810. Next year's goal, including the Mercersburg mini Relay for Life on Sunday, Feb. 16, is $174,000.
Barkdoll said the money not only goes to cancer research, but also supports those currently in treatment with everything from wigs to a place to stay.
For example, in 2018, 124 cancer patients received services from the American Cancer Society in Franklin County; 25 cancer patients from Franklin County stayed at Hope Lodge for a total of 896 nights; and 79 patients used the Road to Recovery program which provided 188 rides to appointments.
For more information, email Barkdoll at:
or Connie Woodruff of the American Cancer Society at:
The next planning meeting is on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Greencastle-Antrim High School and anyone would like to get involved is welcome to attend.