Relay for Life takes steps to battle cancer

PERKINS TWP. In their purple or pink or green orwhite shirts, Relay for Life participants walked tho
May 24, 2010



In their purple or pink or green orwhite shirts, Relay for Life participants walked thousands of miles Friday andtoday.

Their destination, however, is something many more miles and many years away -- a cure for cancer.

The fundraiser for the AmericanCancer Society, in its 12th year locally, began at 4 p.m. and is scheduled to continue until noon today.

Teams that raised money for cancer research all year and through the night were required to have at least one person walking the Perkins High School track at all times during the 20-hour span.

"It's kind of a letdown when it's all over, but then we start back up again in September," said Vikki Church, a team co-leader and chair of the survivors' dinner. "I just love it here. It's just like a big ol' party."

At the team "campsites" that ringed the track, volunteers took breaks from laps but kept busy in other ways, selling food, pine trees, face-painting services and more.

Church said last year's event brought in more than $100,000, but fundraising has been down this year because of the economy.

The grand total won't be counted until Saturday morning.

Melissa Pollom, another Pink Lady, had already walked 17 laps by 7 p.m., surpassing her total for last year. This was her third year participating.

"I try to stay all night, but usually around 4 o'clock, it's like I can't take it anymore and I go home," she said. "I like to watch people, and it's just fun to watch the people and have a good time."

Organizers worried about dampened turnout after a brief but intense rainstorm disrupted the event early on. By the time the the Survivors' Ceremony began at 6 p.m., however, the sun was back out and people filled the bleachers.

Angie Esposito brought many to tears with her story of her husband, Tony, who was diagnosed with colon cancer at 32 and died on Sept. 7.

Esposito couldn't do anything for her husband as she watched her three sons say good-bye to their father, but she doesn't despair.

"This disease will not win," she said. "Because even when it takes the life of our loved ones, someone is left to pick up the pieces and move on. Someone is left to keep fighting.

"For Tony, that someone is me, and that's why I'm here to relay today."

More than 300 survivors in purple shirts, along with their loved ones, then took to the track. A standing ovation greeted them as they finished their celebratory lap.