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Cancer survivors embrace the 'Relay'

    That is what the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is about. Hope for a cure against cancer. Hope for those currently facing cancer. Hope for a world without cancer.
    Each year, members of the community and people whose lives have been affected by cancer raise money and awareness to battle the disease. The Yates County Relay for Life is this Friday, 6 p.m., to Saturday, at the Penn Yan Fireman’s FIeld. The Schuyler County Relay for Life is Friday, June 8, to Saturday, June 9, at the Watkins Glen High School.
    Relay itself is an overnight event. Teams attend relay, setting up camp around a track. At least one member from each team will take turns walking the track. Teams will also set up booths with food, games, and events. The event starts with a survivors’ walk, where cancer survivors make the first lap around the track as a group. Caregivers, or those who help others with cancer, are also recognized.
    Another part of relay is the luminaria ceremony. Before and during relay, people sell luminaries (candles inside of bags) that represent a family member or friend who has been touched by cancer. The candles are lit after dark.
    This year, Yates County has 30 teams signed up, with around 278 participants and $15,836 raised already. Marlene Bergstresser and Deb Kernahan, members of Richie’s Rooters, held a garage and bake sale this past weekend for Relay. Bergstresser said they’re done relay for the past 10 years, because her son was diagnosed with leukemia. She added his cancer is in remission and has moved out of the area, but the group still continues to participate.
    “It helps raise awareness. It touches everybody,” said Kernahan.
    This will also be the first year the St. Paul’s Youth Group will be participating as an official team. Group Advisor Brian Foster said some of the 15 members (ranging in age from sixth grade to sophomore in college) have attended relay before.
    “The thing that’s important is that the kids understand cancer,” said Foster. He added that many people in the church and the community have succumbed or survived cancer.
    Schuyler County has 22 teams. The 215 participants have already raised $18,473. Tammy MacMyne, American Cancer Society director of special events, added a lot more participants come the night of the relay.
    “It’s emotional and moving,” said MacMyne.
    Participant, and member of the EE Energizers, Barbara Anderson said Schuyler County has held its own relay event since 2007. Before that, it was combined with Chemung County and held there. She added the two-county event got so big, participants decided to do a Schuyler County one.
    “People always ask why we do it overnight,” said Anderson. “Because cancer never sleeps.”
She added, it may be cold and rainy, but the people who struggle with cancer deal with it all the time.
    “It’s rare a person doesn’t know someone who hasn’t had cancer,” she added.
    Anderson lost her mother to cancer 40 years ago, about the same time her husband also lost his mother to cancer. Anderson said her mother always taught her to do some kind of community service, something she has “a passion about.”
    Like many of the groups, the EE Energizers have been holding fundraisers. Two weekends ago, the group held their annual Hector Hair Day event. This time it was at the Hector Wine Company. Anderson said they raised 19 feet of hair for Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which turns the hair into wigs. She added this was five more feet of hair than raised last year. The group also raised around $4,500. One donor was Kristina Burke, last year’s Honorary Survivor.  Anderson said Burke had just found out the cancer was back, so decided to cut off her hair now instead of losing it later. This year’s Honorary Survivor is Watkins Glen student Devon Shaw.




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