A Walk for LifePublished 8:24pm Friday, May 3, 2013
Relay For Life turns mileage to cancer fight
The mood was celebratory as hundreds of people lined up behind an arch of purple balloons. Among them were men and women — young, old, black, white — and what united them all was a shared experience: surviving cancer.
The 24-hour walk for cancer, Relay For Life, started last night at the Washington High School track with the national anthem, a prayer and a first lap reserved solely for those who had won their battle with cancer.
Thomas “Duck” Davidson, accompanied by his daughter, Susan Nichols, and grandson, Logan, is one of those survivors, of kidney and colon cancer. At 83, this represents his fifth year at Relay For Life.
“It’s just good to be here and be able to be here,” an emotional Davidson said.
Tracie Bowen Hubers and her mother, Karen Bowen, are both cancer survivors. At 16, Bowen was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and for many years no one knew she’d ever had the disease. She said that changed the first time she took part in Relay For Life.
“I didn’t tell anyone for a long time. I didn’t want anyone to treat me any different,” Bowen explained. “Then I walked the Survivors Lap.”
“Mom inspires others and others encourage us,” added Hubers, who is a survivor of Hodgkins Disease.
According to the Relay For Life website, 34 teams and a total of 617 participants are taking part in the annual Beaufort County walk. Combined, they have raised a total of $75,526.89. According to participants, that number will rise with food fundraisers and donations over the 24-hour period.
One such fundraiser is the Luminaria Ceremony in which luminaries lining the track are lit in honor of those who lost their battle to cancer and those who continue their fight. Each white paper bag is purchased ahead of time and labeled with that loved one’s name. At 9 p.m. last night, team members walked, guided by the light of the luminaries, while in the bleachers more luminaries spelled out the message of “hope.”
Team members from schools, businesses and churches took turns walking around the track through the night and will continue their walk until the 24 hours ends at 6 p.m. tonight.
According to the Relay For Life website, the annual fundraiser began with one man back in May of 1985. Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon, decided he wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society to honor his patients. A marathon runner, Klatt asked friends to pay $25 each to walk or run with him for a half an hour around the track at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. In 24 hours, Klatt walked 83 miles, ultimately raising $27,000 for cancer research. The following year, the event grew and has continued to grow — events are held worldwide and more than $4 billion has been raised to fund the cancer fight.
For Davidson, Bowen and Hubers, Relay for Life establishes a sense of community, one that knows the challenges they’ve faced.
”We love doing this,” said Hubers, looking at the gathered crowd, many decked out in purple “Survivor” T-shirts. “We love coming here.”