Disney-themed Relay for Life a magical evening

SURVIVORS’ LAP — Cancer survivors walk with their loved ones and caretakers during the annual Jefferson County Relay for Life event held Friday at Clarke Hinkle Stadium in Toronto. -- Taryn Linder

TORONTO — Jefferson County held its annual Relay for Life on Friday to work toward making dreams of a cure come true.

With a Disney theme, volunteers had a magical time at the Relay event held Friday at Toronto Jr.-Sr. High School Clarke Hinkle Stadium to benefit the American Cancer Society.

“I can’t even begin to imagine how many people we had participate this year,” said ACS Community Development Manager Tracy Barnhouse.

Barnhouse said 20 teams signed up this year.

“That is almost double the participation of last year’s Relay for Life,” said Barnhouse.

This year, Jefferson County’s goal is to raise $82,500.

“We already have a little more than $80,300,” said Barnhouse. “We are very excited.”

Barnhouse said schools in Jefferson County raised a total of $45,000 through the “Relay Recess” program, in which students compete to raise money while being educated on the importance of sunscreen, healthy foods, avoiding tobacco and more.

Emily Russell, who served as co-chair of the event along with Tom Simmons, encourages community members to come out to the next event.

“The whole county is invited,” noted Russell, adding that people don’t have to be part of a team or know someone on a team to be a part of the relay.

Russell has been participating in Relay for Life for about 10 years, two of them as a cancer survivor herself.

“Relay is close to my heart,” she said. “I lost so many people to cancer.”

Russell added the relay’s luminaria ceremony is a must-see.

“It’s just magical,” said Russell. “Makes you stop and think.”

Cancer survivors Jenny Dickinson, a physical education teacher and intervention specialist at Toronto City Schools; Mara Keenan, 6; and Wyatt Anderson, 11, led the cancer survivors in the opening lap.

“This was my first time working with Jefferson County,” added Barnhouse. “I love this community and working with its wonderful volunteers.”

For relay information, contact Tracy Barnhouse, ACS community development manager, by phone at (740) 509-0196 or by e-mail to tracy.barnhouse@cancer.org or Russell via e-mail at emily.relay19@gmail.com.

For ACS information, visit cancer.org. The cancer helpline number is (800) 227-2345.