Just like any other war, persistence is essential in the fight against cancer.
That much was clear as the participants assembled their booths and prepared for the night-long Relay For Life at Wheeling Park on Friday.
Even as evidence of a Thursday storm was being cleaned up, the sky was turning gray and reports came in that heavy rain could be on the way. But that did nothing to deter the volunteers and staff as they put together their displays.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
People walk past lighted bags representing cancer survivors and loved ones lost to the disease during Friday’s Ohio County Relay for Life at Wheeling Park’s Good Lake.
Celebrate those who have survived. Remember those who have died. Fight back to prevent further losses. These are the three basic pillars of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life program.
Each year, more than 3.5 million people in more than 5,000 communities in the United States, along with communities in 19 other countries, work together to raise funds and awareness in the fight against cancer. While relays usually take place at a location with an available track, the relay came to Wheeling Park a few years ago and participants liked it so much that they have made it their regular venue.
This year, more than 1,000 people signed on for the Ohio County Relay For Life. Each of the tents set up along Good Lake was manned by a team or organization, each somehow linked to someone affected by cancer.
Each team must have a representative walking the trail at all times through the overnight event because, as the informational pamphlet says, "cancer never sleeps."
The events began at 7 p.m. Friday and were scheduled to end at 7 a.m. today.
Most relays open with a Survivors Lap, in which cancer survivors lead the way in walking while participants honor and applaud them. Special T-shirts or sashes are often distributed to survivors.
At about 9:30 p.m. a Luminaria Ceremony was held. Bags decorated by Madison Elementary School students were illuminated in memory of those who have been affected by cancer. For some, it is to remember the dead. For others, the ceremony commemorates the survivors. It also represents the daily battle of those who have to deal with cancer.
Cathy Northcraft, one of those in charge of organizing the relay, called Wheeling a "very generous community (that) supports this lifesaving effort through the ACS."
As the tents went up and the village of volunteers began to take shape, participants were excited.
"It's basically to celebrate life," said Lynn Abraham, whose independent group was on hand for a fourth year. "All the money you can give them gets that much closer to the cure."
One of the regular activities is a contest for different booths assembled. The representatives from West Virginia Northern Community College spared no effort in their display, turning their booth into a cancer-fighting cabana with palm thatch around the roof and island decorations on display. WVNCC has participated for six years and has won Best Themed Tent for the past five.