It was easy to see why people were involved with the annual Relay for Life at Legion Field Friday night and Saturday morning.
The crowd of survivors and their loved ones alone shows how widely cancer touches lives.
In addition, the many volunteers who worked organizing the event have their own stories, said Relay for Life Chairwoman Cindy Powers.
Organizing committee members have seen grandmothers diagnosed with breast cancer, one member who had her a cancer return and another member who recently lost her son, she said.
Survivor Committee Chairwoman Emma Greenwood talked about her double reason for working toward cures for cancers.
Four years ago, her husband was diagnosed with lung cancer — given six months to live — and she was not about to stand around waiting for him to die, she said. She researched who was studying lung cancer and found help from the American Cancer Society at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.
After radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, her husband has been cancer free for three years, Greenwood said.
Unfortunately, she was not as lucky with her son.
The family noticed her son was losing weight and it seemed unusually fast. He and his physician blamed it on ulcers, but it was not long before he was in an emergency room and diagnosed with esophageal cancer that he fought for two years, Greenwood said.
“On Memorial Day last week, we lost our son to cancer,” she said.
Sixteen teams of fundraisers brought in about $60,000 for this year’s relay — which included $8,100 by one team and $5,000 by another — and it is sorely needed, Powers said.
“The only way to fight this disease is to fund research, and we are here to bring the funds we’ve raised to give to the American Cancer Society so that they can give grants to researchers,” she said.
Powers noted that such a grant funded the first successful use of chemotherapy against cancer, but that the society is only able to fund from 15 to 20 percent of all grant requests, even though they may hold answers to cancer control.
That means every relay makes a difference, she emphasized.
Planning and putting such an event together is a big job, and the about 20 people on the organizing committee had to work very hard, Powers said.
She called the committee volunteers her “A-team,” and the list included Mandy Phillips, Suzie Cervantes, Kim Grennan, Sheri Kembel, Jennifer Kral, Chelsea Schrader, Kayla Iiams, Rae Ellen Windsheimer, Hayless Snyder, Tamera Acosta-Brown Deal, Esther Cooley, Julie Spradlin, Kayla Castrup, Dana Hanson, Allison Yearous, Erika Roberts, Amanda Draegert, Francis and Chris Bird and Greenwood.
Powers said the relay — in which people walked around the football field all night — really began months ago. Teams of people have held a volleyball tournament, moonlight bowling, sold “oodles of noodles,” sold “knots of love necklaces,” and done a quilt raffle, as well as bake sales and garage sales.
These teams dedicated their efforts to fighting cancer, she said.
The nightlong relay also symbolizes the 24/7 battle cancer patients fight and it unites communities like Morgan County in honoring those who have battled cancer, Powers said.
The American Cancer Society is there for those who suffer from cancer, and has much information to share with victims, including a bookstore full of volumes about various aspects of cancer, health information, tips for a better quality of life, signs of cancer and eating healthy. Also, the society is willing to lend a hand, Greenwood said.
“They’re wonderful, wonderful people,” she said.
She urged anyone with questions to give the society a call.
Greenwood also sang the praises of the society’s Cancer Action Network, which lobbies legislators to push for cancer research funding. however, she said it is facing obstacles in this time of economic difficulty.
Cancer victim advocates have lost government money for preventive care, as well as for breast and prostate cancer screening, even though many seemingly trivial things still receive funding, she said.
That makes funding raised in private even more important, and that kind of funding helped her son to last two years longer, Greenwood said.
She urged people to join the action network.
Following her speech, a large crowd of cancer survivors and sufferers made a victory lap around the football field, some in wheelchairs, to open the relay. Above them in the stands were sacks with candles in them to make luminaria which were formed into the shape of the word “hope.”
Later, more than 500 other luminaria would ring the football field as it grew dark.
Tents with teams of people who were fundraising and walking in the relay also ringed the field with decorations representing this year’s theme of “Seasons of Hope.”
Many teams had seasonal themes based on spring, summer, fall and winter.
The Wiggins Community Church Youth Group had a tent with a theme of “Trick or Treating for a Cure,” and decorations such as gravestones etched with funny sayings. “Dracula. Born 1732, died 1756, 1844, 1878 …” read one, and “I told you I was sick” on another. The Paint for the Cure team sponsored by Fort Morgan Paint Bucket also had an autumn theme. The Valley View Villains had the theme “Helping to Freeze Out Cancer” with a penguin blowup and many plastic and paper snowflakes.
The First Christian Church had a motto of “Freeze Out Cancer,” and decorated the team tent with snowmen, a Christmas tree, a valentine and St. Patrick’s Day symbols, all holidays during the winter. Cargill Meat Solutions team members had a “Winter in the Summer” theme and was festooned with snowflake balloons. Xcel Energy also had a Christmas tree along with a sled for a winter theme.
The Strides of Hope team had a tropical theme — as did other teams — with flamingoes, palm trees and a swimming pool for a luau style. The Cancer Crusaders in the Yearous family also had a luau theme.
The Hummingbird Hunnies had a spring motif, as did the Winning Edge 4-H team, and Colorado Plains Medical Center brought flowers to complete its spring theme. The Cancer Terminators team was selling bracelets and gave out free beads for them for each lap the person made around the track — and they tried to do a quarters for a cure around the track by asking people to set quarters next to each other and try to ring the track with them.
The Beta Epsilon women had a theme of “Could Have been a Rodeo Queen,” and they dressed the part complete with stick horses and sashes saying, “No, I’m the Queen.”
Besides walking around the track, teams and survivors could enjoy a barbecue, and play volleyball or other games and contests all night or have their faces painted or put on temporary tattoos.
Some people had their ponytails cut off to donate for wigs for those who lost their hair to chemotherapy.
If teams got too rowdy, there were “hush angels” around to remind them not to wake the neighbors. Marissa Cervantes, Katelynn Waterman, Jayda Madrid, Noah Greenwood, Wyatt Ecklund, Ryan Eggleston and Max Villarreal acted as angels.
Chaplain David Voshell noted that there were no denominations when it came to fighting cancer, and the fight brought everyone into unity. He had been married to a cancer survivor who recently passed away from unrelated causes.
He thanked those who came out to remember their loved ones, and to pray and work for a cure.
–Contact Dan Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org
<a href="http://www.fortmorgantimes.com/ci_18263596tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.fortmorgantimes.com/ci_18263596Mon, 13 Jun 2011 17:42:44 GMT 00:00″>Relay for Life supporters touched by cancer