Steubenville Area Relay for Life kicks off Friday

WINTERSVILLE – “I Relay – What’s Your Super Power” is the theme of the Steubenville Area Relay for Life set to kick off Friday at the Robert Kettlewell Memorial Stadium on the campus of Indian Creek High School.

Approximately 38 teams of about 400 people are set to participate in the “Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back” fundraiser sponsored by the Jefferson County Unit of the American Cancer Society, all in hopes of raising $155,000 for research, patient services, advocacy and education.

Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. Friday, according to relay chair Jaclyn Walters-Abrams, and the relay continues until closing ceremonies at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Packed in between those two bookends are a variety of activities, entertainment, music by disc jockey Dave Secrist, onsite fundraisers, a live auction at 8:30 p.m. Friday and opportunities not just for teams participating, but for the public to enjoy as well.

Walters-Abrams and Bethani Barsch, ACS staff partner, emphasized the relay is open to anybody who wants to participate, donate, observe or patronize on-site fundraisers, whether they’re part of a team or not.

“Anyone is welcome to come and walk and learn about relay and why it’s important to raise those funds,” Walters-Abrams said.

“We’re excited to have old teams and new teams come out,” Barsch said. “We have 13 new teams this year, so we’re super excited just to show a ton of new people about relay and the spirit of relay and the spirit of community and just having old and new teams alike come out and celebrate and fight back and remember those loved ones we’ve lost,” Barsch said.

After opening ceremonies, survivors will take to the track at 6:15 p.m. to walk the opening lap. There are approximately 90 survivors pre-registered to participate, but more are welcome to be involved and can do so by arriving at the stadium Friday by 5:30 p.m. to register.

Leading the survivors in the opening lap will be Amy Durbin of Toronto.

A recording of the names of pre-registered cancer survivors will play as they make their way around the track.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday, a dinner in honor of the survivors will be held under the stadium bleachers.

Walters-Abrams, part of Team Family Jewels that organized in 2011, recalled her feelings on seeing her brother Bill Walters participate in the survivors walk his first year.

“As I watched my brother walk and watched my family watch him walk, there’s a magical moment at that point where you realize that your loved one and all of those surrounding him in those purple shirts have claimed victory,” Walters-Abrams said.

Being an observer of that, she said, “is an amazing experience of life and reminds you that there’s so much hope.”

The relay will include a luminaria ceremony at 9:30 p.m. Friday. They are available for $10 and can be obtained up until 9 p.m. Friday.

A new element to the relay is that anyone coming – participants or spectators – is asked to bring a can of food for a unique dual purpose.

The cans will be used initially to anchor luminaria bags for the Friday ceremony that begins at 9:30 p.m. The cans will be used in place of sand. Afterwards, the cans will be donated to the Cancer Dietary Initiative food pantry that operates out of the Tony Teramana Cancer Center and helps cancer patients struggling financially.

The luminaria ceremony will be followed by the release of lighted balloons, a fundraiser by Team Family Jewels, also can be ordered through 9 p.m. Friday for the release ceremony set for 10 p.m. They are $5 and available through Walters-Abrams or team captain Jennie Walters at jennie05@gmail.com.

In addition to on-site fundraisers that teams will have for the public to patronize, a concession stand operated by Wal-Mart Distribution Center’s team will feature a variety of food items available for purchase.

There are some new elements to this year’s edition of relay, according to Walters-Abrams.

As part of the through-the-night events for teams to participate in, there will be a Zumba glow party at 11 p.m. Friday, and a relay prom at 1 a.m. Saturday will invite participants to be part of a throwback prom in hopes of being crowned relay king and queen.

The superhero lap at 5:30 a.m. will invite participants to don their favorite superhero attire.

There will be a morning worship service led by Sycamore Tree representatives at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, according to Walters-Abrams.

Teams participating are being asked to post a bio of why they’re involved in relay.

Walters-Abrams shared hers:

“After our brother was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March 2010, cancer had finally made its way into our lives. Once he was declared cancer free in June 2010, we, as a family, looked for a way to give back and heal after a life-changing experience,” Walters-Abrams said.

“Our first relay year was 2011. We had participated in Relay for Life back in the 1990s while celebrating the life of our friend, Susie. That experience brought us to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life since we knew it would help us ‘Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back,” she continued.

“In the past few years, we have been joined by family and friends as we fight back this disease. We lost our Uncle Peter Belli to lung cancer in February 2012 and lost a dear friend, Myra Zarnoch, in January after a hard-fought battle with colon cancer. We celebrate survivorship with Pat Long, affected by prostate cancer, and stand beside Donnie MacLachlan as he currently is battling stage-four mesothelioma,” Walters-Abrams said.

“This is our relay story. Through the laughter and the tears, we search to find healing and continue to hope for a cure.”

For information on participating in or donating to the Steubenville Area Relay for Life sponsored by the Jefferson County Unit of the American Cancer Society, contact chair Jaclyn Walters-Abrams by phone at (304) 479-9378 or by e-mail at jaclyn6@gmail.com or ACS staff partner Bethani Barsch by phone at (740) 312-4725 or by e-mail at bethani.barsch@cancer.org.