More than 1,000 people whose lives have been touched by cancer gathered at the Ohio County Relay for Life at Wheeling Park on Friday evening to walk until dawn today for one purpose - survival.
The event elicited many emotions as cancer survivors, families and friends came together to share stories, show compassion and raise money for the American Cancer Society for research and programs that assist cancer patients.
"Ohio County Relay for Life has been going on as long as relay has been in effect nationwide," Cathy Northcraft, chairwoman of the event, said. "We celebrate, we remember and we fight back. We celebrate the lives that have been saved, we remember those who have been lost by cancer, and we fight back against the disease by raising funds."
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Members of the Mr. Relay Contest smile during the Ohio County Relay for Life at Wheeling Park. Pictured, from left, are Josh Popkey, Miss Wheeling Gabrielle Payne, Matt Daccione and Kevin Carroll.
According to Northcraft, 63 teams participated in the event this year.
During the walk, Wheeling Park High School student Carly Greer brought tears to the eyes of the crowd by debuting her song "Because I'm in It," an emotionally charged tune she co-wrote with her mother, Stacey Greer, a breast cancer survivor. According to Carly Greer, the lyric at the beginning of the song's chorus, "Surviving is the only option," held special meaning for the mother-daughter duo.
"This song is more to give people the will to fight," Greer said.
Cathy Meigh, a three-time lung cancer survivor, also spoke to the crowd about her journey from her first diagnosis with cancer and her relationship with Relay for Life. She said she was angry at her first Relay, because she felt so sick and didn't want to "celebrate" cancer. However, she said that night changed her forever when she realized it was a "celebration of lives."
"Relay gives people some hope," Meigh said. "Relay is not just a big picnic, it's relay all year long. It's awareness and funding for research and education for doctors, because if it wasn't for the doctors, I wouldn't be here right now. Cancer is not just one country, one race, one age - it affects everybody."
After Meigh spoke, cancer survivors lined up to begin the relay's first lap around the park's lake.
At dusk, hundreds of luminaries decorated with names of loved ones lining the lake were lit in a ceremony to remember those lost and those who have survived cancer.