Area Relay kicks off Friday with new features

STEUBENVILLE – Supporters of the Steubenville Area Relay for Life sponsored by the Jefferson County Unit of the American Cancer Society will “Rock Out Cancer” this weekend, as the 2013 fundraiser kicks off Friday at the Robert Kettlewell Memorial Stadium on the campus of Indian Creek High School in Wintersville.

Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. with cancer survivors walking the opening lap, and the event continues through noon Saturday.

Twelve-year-old Brandon Joyce, son of Chris and Lori Joyce and a pupil at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, will carry the torch during the survivors’ lap, according to relay Co-Chairs Kyle Elder and Jaclyn Walters.

“After undergoing chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, he claimed victory over cancer two years ago on Christmas Eve. Brandon is the youngest known case of myeloma in the United States,” Elder said.

The opening lap will be followed by a reception for survivors who then will be encouraged to visit the various team campsites for goodie bag items, a new feature of the relay.

The 18-hour relay will include scavenger hunts, sing-a-longs, themed laps, team fundraisers, trivia contests, a luminary ceremony at 10 p.m. Friday followed by a lighted balloon release and a butterfly release at 10 a.m. Saturday.

A new attraction of this year’s event will be a video broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Friday entitled “The Five People You Meet at Relay.”

“The video showcases Relay For Life and why now is the most important time to join the fight against cancer,” said Elder, who graduated in May from the Franciscan University of Steubenville with a bachelor’s degree in communication arts.

Elder’s senior thesis involved a documentary on Relay for Life and the people there. He interviewed Amy Durbin, a cancer survivor; ACS staff partner Bethani Barsch, a cancer caregiver; Barb Wilinski, a cancer advocate; Vickie Shaffer, a cancer fighter; and Walters, the “spirit of relay.”

“The documentary has reached national status in the relay world, having been featured in the Power of Purple newsletter that was sent to all relay committees in the country,” Elder said.

The documentary precedes the luminaria ceremony, “the central event” at the relay. The ceremony celebrates those who have won the fight while remembering loved ones lost to the disease. A luminary bag is available for a $10 donation and can be dedicated in a loved one’s honor or memory. The ceremony will include a slideshow.

Another new element of the relay is a “Fight Back Ceremony.” At sunrise on Saturday, participants “will gather to make a personal pledge to eradicate cancer.”

The relay – not a sporting event, but “an organized, overnight community fundraising walk to aid in the fight against cancer” – has set a goal to raise $133,000 for cancer research, patient services, advocacy and education.

Donations help run programs, for example, such as Road to Recovery, which provides rides to cancer patients to and from treatments, and Hope Lodge where cancer patients receive lodging when undergoing treatment away from home. Money also goes toward clinical ground-breaking trials that helped fund cancer-fighting drugs such as Herceptin, according to relay promotional material.

This year’s relay has another unique feature to it, according to Elder.

“Steubenville is once again the only ACS CAN Club event in the state of Ohio,” Elder said.

ACS CAN, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, is the nation’s leading cancer advocacy organization that works with government to make cancer a national priority, according to promotional material. That the relay is an ACS CAN event means at least 10 teams have to have each team member donate $10 to become an ASC CAN member. The following teams who have made that possible are Team Family Affair, Stacy’s Pink Posse, Wilinski’s Walkers, Team Cooper, Family Jewels, Team Radioactive, Wintersville United Methodist Church, Shear Cancer, Toronto First Presbyterian Church and Wal-Mart Sparkies.

The relay will host an ACS CAN Cafe on Friday – a special site for ACS CAN teams to gather and talk with state representatives and others looking to make cancer a national priority, according to Elder.

For information on participating, volunteering or donating to the Steubenville Area Relay for Life, call Barsch at (888) 227-6446, extension 2212; Elder at (740) 219-0147 or; or visit the website at

(Kiaski can be contacted at