An inspiring event

Thursday, July 20, 2006

This weekend I had the privilege of participating in the Relay for Life event at the Cassville football stadium. In years past, I had attended the Relay as an observer, viewing the festivities from behind the lens of my camera. But this year, the Cassville Democrat and Baywash car wash joined together to put together a relay team, and instead of viewing the Relay as an outsider, I got involved with my fellow teammates on a personal level and can say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

On the surface, it's an event that requires you to stay up through the night, participating in various activities and walking laps around the track. The main focus of the Relay is to raise money for cancer research, which is an awesome purpose, but the true beauty of the event lies in the people who participate.

Relay for Life is one of the most inspiring fundraisers I have ever been involved with. It was truly amazing to see the number of area residents who came out to support the Relay. There were those who got involved as a member of one of this year's 18 fundraising teams and others who came out to record a lap or two around the track in support of the fight against cancer. Still others chose to participate by donating money or services in support of the local Relay.

For me, the highlight of the event was the opening Survivors' Lap and the Luminaria ceremony that honored loved ones who had lost their battles with cancer. Wearing purple shirts and white "Survivor" sashes, those who had won their fight with cancer or who were currently battling the disease walked together around the track to the cheers of onlookers and team members who lined the football field. It was also awesome to see so many of these survivors continue walking the track throughout the night, their trips around the oval further reinforced their strength and fortitude in fighting their disease.

As darkness fell Friday night, luminarias were placed around the track and in the stadium stands to spell out the word HOPE. Marge Bowman was given a lighted torch and she led the group for another trip around the track, but this time, our steps were made in silence to honor those who have died from cancer. As I walked that lap and looked at the names written on each luminaria, I was reminded of how cancer affects so many people's lives. But just as sobering as this experience was, it also symbolized the hope that comes from a community willing to give of their time and resources to support those battling cancer and to give money toward research that one day will produce a cure for this horrible disease.

I was especially proud of the Barry County community this weekend, and on behalf of all those involved in the Relay, I would like to thank the planning committee for their dedicated service to the annual fundraiser. Committee members included: Cindy Puryear (chairman), Denise Schnabl, Anne Taggart, Joyce Matthews, Ruby Reese, Emily Jackson, Matt Ticknor, Mary Collins, Marie Hoff, Linda Puryear, Sylvia Sturgeon and Angela Fysh. Personally, all of us here at the Cassville Democrat and Baywash car wash (KWK and the Paper Gang) would like to thank Teresa Richards for serving as our team captain and getting us organized. Great job, Teresa!

So far, this year's local Relay effort has raised a record $53,000 for the American Cancer Society. What a great outcome for a superb event. I know we plan to organize another team next year and hope others are inspired to join the fight. Thank you to all who gave of their time, money and resources to support Relay for Life of South Barry County. It's definitely a worthwhile effort and one that everyone should experience on a personal level.