Area Relay is deemed a success

WINTERSVILLE — Dan Wood, co-chair of the 22nd-annual Steubenville Area Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society, was tired Sunday, but happy and optimistic.

The 12-hour relay held Saturday from noon to midnight at the Robert Kettlewell Memorial Stadium at Indian Creek High School generated around $100,000 for research, education, patient services and advocacy, falling short of the $107,000 goal.

“It was a huge success, attendance was down a little, but I feel very confident that we’ll hit goal,” Wood said Sunday, noting “a couple of corporate checks” are anticipated, and a fundraiser roadblock set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 8 at Riesbeck’s could well combine to compensate the difference as relay fundraising runs on an August-to-August timeframe.

Saturday’s relay to the theme “Always Remember — Never Forget” unfolded in the midst of high heat and humidity in stark contrast to most years of having been a cool, rain-plagued event.

Weather aside, cancer survivors with family or caregivers turned out for the ceremonial opening lap led by 6-year-old Peyton Geary walking with his parents, Jake and Melissa Geary. Peyton, now cancer free, was born with leukemia and had his first chemotherapy treatment when he was all of 10 days old. After the opening lap, other teams of relay participants walked, enjoyed live entertainment, food, music by disc jockey Anthony Bailey, a luminary ceremony and other activities.

Opening ceremonies led by Wood included a prayer by Pastor Tyler Bayless of Toronto First Presbyterian Church and the singing of the national anthem by members of the Ohio Valley Chorale.

This year’s relay was extra personal for Wintersville Mayor Bob Gale, who welcomed those attending and applauded those responsible for coordinating the annual fundraiser.

“This is my 10th year as mayor,” Gale said. “I came here my first year as mayor and fortunately at the time I had no one in my family with cancer, so I didn’t really understand what this is all about. Then the next year, my wife, Janine, had cancer, and, trust me, I knew right away what it was about. You learn quickly,” Gale said.

“Unfortunately she passed away two months ago, and one thing I can tell you. When we talk about this, she did not lose, she won, and everybody here are winners and all of those supporting their families, God bless you, and keep helping them,” Gale said, encouraging those on hand “to love everybody every day because you don’t know when you’ll have your last.”

Eric Baker, ACS community manager, called the relay “an amazing gathering.”

“Just look around you — families, friends, co-workers, businesses, community leaders, children, grandparents and neighbors — are all here for the same reason, to finish the fight against cancer. During the next several hours we will be together on a life-changing journey, celebrating those who have battled cancer, remembering the people we have lost and renewing our commitment to fight back against this disease, to help end it once and for all,” Baker said.

The relay’s beginning included a special plaque presentation by Wood to businessman Wayne Fulmer “for unselfish devotion and distinguished service.”

“There are so many people involved in relay behind the scenes you never hear about or see or meet. This gentleman has been here every year since the beginning of our relay in 1995,” Wood said, noting Fulmer has supplied needed paper products and items and general support.

Relay Co-Chair Shannon Rantala, formerly involved with Buckeye’s Relay for Life that merged this year with the Wintersville event, said she was proud to be a part of something that was occurring in more than 5,000 communities nationally and globally.

“By walking the track you are joining forces with millions people worldwide who want to save lives and finish the fight,” Rantala said. “While each of us has a unique reason for being here, we all have something very much in common — we want to make a difference in the fight against cancer,” she said.

Retired Edison Local School District educators Connie Crawford and Karen Lundquist offered an overview of the 2017 mini-relay element — an idea they championed more than 20 years ago.

Crawford thanked the 23 Jefferson County schools and their coordinators who worked to raise $55,713.11 — the highest total yet.

Buckeye Local schools combined to raise more than $7,000, according to Crawford, who credited Rantala for that.

Crawford announced awards with Edison High School, coordinated by Jennifer Bahen and Sara Cunningham, receiving first place at $7,461. She noted the school lost student Brandon Joyce to cancer in the weeks before the relay. He had been the event’s 2013 torch bearer.

Second place went to Harding Middle School, $6,060, led by Jennifer Storey and Katie Eskridge; third place, Indian Creek Elementary, $4,992, led by Toni Voltz and Brittany Shank; and fourth place, Wells Academy, $4,610, led by Cheryl Rubish and Principal Shawn Crosier.

The award for most improved school went to Steubenville High School, led by Scott Lane. It jumped from $800 last year to $4,286 this year.

Wood called the relay an overall positive experience that did well financially thanks to much support, including an on-site fundraiser called “Drive 4 UR Community” is done with the help of Team Ford-Lincoln at 905 Brady Ave., Steubenville. For every licensed 18 and older who took a test drive at the relay, Ford Motor Co. will donate $20 to the relay.

A relay wrap-up meeting will be held in August, when teams that raised the most money will be announced, Wood said.

(Kiaski can be contacted at