Focus on Fostoria - June_23_04

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Fostoria Focus - June 23, 2004

2004 Relay Raises $125,000
by Leonard Skonecki

"This word cancer brings us together on a common ground. It unites us as no other word could possibly unit us."

-Karris Matz, cancer survivor and speaker at the 2004 Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony.

Fostorians united in 36 teams Friday and Saturday for the 10th annual Seneca County Unit's American Cancer Society Relay for Life. Before they went their separate ways they'd made $125,000 to fight cancer.

At the closing ceremonies, Relay co-chair Barb Carlo told the walkers, "All the money isn't in. All the bills aren't paid, but it looks like we're going to raise $125,000. It's because of you that this happened."

The state of the Relay after 10 years?

Barb said, "It's amazing how it has grown and how much life can be put into the Relay. We change things every year. Doing new and different things each year keeps it fresh.

"You still have the basic concept of celebrating life with our cancer survivors and remembering those who died with our Luminaria service. People fight cancer 24 hours a day. That's why you walk all night."

The opening ceremonies were emceed by Sam Abbate and Channel 11 meteorologist Dave Carlson. Ralph Wise, Safety Service Director, extended the official welcome on behalf of the City.

The Relay, an overnight team walking event, is the Cancer Society's signature fund-raiser. It supports the Society's goal of eliminating cancer as a major health problem by prevention, saving lives from cancer and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service.

The first Relay was held in Tacoma, Wash. In 1985. Today, 3,300 Relays are held annually in America.

Cancer affects almost everyone. That's why Jane Gerritsen co-chaired the Relay for the second time.

"My family has been involved for seven years," said Jane. "I have a particular interest this year because I've been diagnosed with brain cancer.
"My mom died of cancer. My niece died of cancer when she was only a year and half old. This is the most worthwhile event anyone could get involved in. Cancer touches everyone."

Over 50 businesses and organizations sponsor or support the Relay. This year's platinum sponsor was Fostoria Community Hospital; gold plus sponsor Tiffin Mercy Hospital and gold sponsor Norton Mfg.

Tim Jakacki, president and CEO of Fostoria Community Hospital and president of the ACS Seneca County Unit, said, "The Relay for Life has been so much more than 10 Relays. It's been 10 years of team building, supporting each other, and strengthening friendships. It's 10 years of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in Fostoria and to date over $1.3 million in Seneca County."

Tim said the Cancer Society's work is paying off. In 1997, for the first time, cancer mortality rates in the U.S. dropped. Cancer rates are dropping, early detection is more common and the quality of life for cancer sufferers has dramatically improved.

The Luminaria Ceremony is a Relay highlight. This year over 950 luminaria were lit to honor cancer survivors and remember those whose lives the disease claimed. Ryan Hobbs, Barb Hoening and Kay Hammerman read the names.

The theme of the Relay was Hands Around The World For A Cure. Campsites were decorated accordingly.

St. Catherine's Care Center's was Jamaican. Lifetouch's had a southwest siesta flavor. Friends of Lakota went Irish; Hope Lutheran German; the Survivors team African safari.

Good Shepherd Home couldn't make up its mind so its six-foot chicken wire and paper mache globe testified to its We Are The World theme.

St. Catherine's won the awards for best campsite and team spirit.

The raffle and silent and live auctions had everything from Jet Express tickets to a Grant Jackson autographed baseball bat. Greg Peiffer conducted the live auction.

Another item was an "On It!," a combination bench, small step ladder and ironing board hand-made by cancer survivor Steve Cline. You can "Sit on it. Climb on it. Iron on it."

Fundraising is the name of the Relay's game. The leading fundraisers were Cancer Busters, $1,561 per capita (youth team); Chris Gerritson, $5,208, (individual); Fred Smith Family, $605 per capita (family); Angels of Hope, $442 per capita (church); Fostoria Plumbing, Heating and Electrical, $1,202 per capita (corporate); All About Safety, $400 per capita (business).

The Relay is always good for odd happenings. Daryl and Kathy Theis were standing by the track gate when a little guy, maybe 6-7 years old marched up and in a loud voice asked, "How's it goin' with yooooo??!?

Kathy and Daryl had never laid eyes on the kid before. They said they were just peachy and off the kid scampered.

Later, he was spotted tromping around the track in high gear. What he knows about cancer and the Relay is anybody's guess, except maybe he knows it's a chance to ask folks "how it's going?" and to stomp around without his mom telling him to put a lid on it.

But if he is a bit older, he might be interested to know that 9.6 million Americans alive today are cancer survivors. Maybe by the time he is a bit older, the Cancer Society will have reached the goal of making that number grow and grow and grow until everyone who gets cancer survives it.

The Relay just banked $125,000 to keep up the effort.


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