WELLSBURG - Cathy Meigh, a cancer survivor from Colerain, Ohio, said she was surprised when she attended her first American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Meigh, who was guest speaker for a kickoff dinner Tuesday for the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life, said she didn't expect the many smiling faces she saw as participants took their laps, even among the cancer survivors. Not that the event didn't have its serious moments, she said.
Meigh said she was moved by the lighting of luminaria, in honor or memory of loved ones who had battled cancer, and an overall spirit of compassion expressed by the many attending.
RELAY SEASON HERE — Festivities for the 2013 Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which will have a Mardi Gras theme, were kicked off with a dinner Tuesday at the Wellsburg Fire Hall. Dave Secrist, the event’s chairman, detailed various activities, including a Mardi Gras-themed parade, planned for this year. Seated to his left are, Madonna High School student Makenzie Santoro, who was recognized as the top individual fundraiser for West Virginia and Relay co-chairs Sandy Yankura and Tammy Hornick. Paul Hornick also is a co-chairman for the event, which will be held June 1 and 2 at the Follansbee Middle School football field. -- Warren Scott
"It changed my life. It's probably the most heartfelt thing I've ever seen," she said, adding, "Basically it (Relay for Life) is celebrating lives - those who have lost their lives and those who have survived."
And as in years past, this year's Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life will be a mix of silliness and solemnity, said Dave Secrist, who chairs the annual event with the assistance of co-chairs Paul and Tammy Hornick and Sandy Yankura.
Secrist revealed there will be a Mardi Gras theme, with a Mardi Gras parade with floats made by Relay for Life Teams and other units, to be held in May to promote awareness of the relay itself, which will be held June 1 and 2 at the Follansbee Middle School football field.
Secrist said the event was moved north from its usual location at Brooke High School this year because it's a midway point between the two counties. He noted the site also enables Relay teams to pitch their tents close to the walking track, allowing participants to view the event and various festivities when they break from walking.
Steve Lauck, of the event's entertainment committee, said volunteering to entertain participants this year are The El Durays, an oldies rock and roll group; local vocalist Toni Voltz, Leslie Ciccolella, who will present a karate demonstration; and Cindy Petri of Fusion Fitness, who will keep attendees alert with a zumba session early in the morning.
There also will be a battle of the barrel-style competition between local fire departments, cake walk, mystery auction and games for children during the overnight event.
And the survivors' lap, taken at the start of the event at 6 p.m., and lighting of luminaria will return, Secrist said.
He added that this year, in light of the many struggling economically, a canned good will replace sand as weights for the luminaria. The food will be donated afterward to food pantries in Brooke and Hancock counties, Secrist said.
The cost to sponsor the luminaria is $5 and the registration fee is $10 per participant. Proceeds from the event go to cancer prevention, research and patient services provided by the American Cancer Society.
Last year's event raised about $88,000 for the cause.
Secrist took time Tuesday to recognize Makenzie Santoro, a Madonna High School student who was West Virginia's top individual Relay for Life fundraiser after leading a team that raised more than $14,000.
Santoro and Haley Law, who are serving as junior chairmen for the relay, became involved with the cause as pupils at Follansbee Middle School, where they assisted Secrist in organizing a Relay for Life and related fundraisers.
Secrist said a number of local schools are getting involved again this year by holding their own relays and other events. Students and faculty from local schools have been among the many teams participating in the relay, with families, friends, co-workers, church members and other formal and informal groups comprising the others.
Many teams hold assorted fundraisers prior to the event. A team headed by Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti and her daughter, Kim Stewart, will present a dinner theater, featuring the Ohio Valley Cloak and Dagger Co., on May 4.
Tickets for the show are $30 each and may be purchased by calling (304) 374-3335.
Secrist added the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life Committee will promote awareness of the event by expanding its Paint the Town Purple campaign to include cities throughout the Northern Panhandle with the help of Relay for Life Organizers in the other counties.
Local residents and businesses are invited to help by purchasing Relay for Life banners and flags for display.
Anyone interested in participating or supporting the Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life should call Secrist, (304) 919-3960; or Paul and Tammy Hornick at (304) 737-3748.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)