Walking with a purpose

May 15, 2004|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

The rain put a damper on using the high school track and drove the walkers inside to the gymnasium, but it didn't dampen their enthusiasm for the task at hand.

Every year since 1995, hundreds of area residents meet behind Greencastle-Antrim High School on a Friday afternoon to walk the track for Relay For Life, the annual fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society.

The relay started at 4 p.m. Friday and ends at 4 p.m. today.

A late afternoon storm came through the area just as the walkers were ready to take to the track. Bev Kristine, who runs the event along with Shendelle Clapper, sent them inside to the high school gym to begin their trek.

This year, more than 50 teams fielded more than 700 walkers. The idea is for a team to have at least one member on the track at all times during the 24 hours.


Teams are sponsored by businesses, organizations, church and school groups, and families and friends of cancer victims or survivors.

Among the teams at this year's relay is "Justin's Angels," in honor of Justin Stumbaugh. The 7-year-old from Mercersburg, Pa., died of cancer Sept. 9, 1999.

His sister, Courtney Stumbaugh, 8, was walking around the gym with her grandmother and several of her grandmother's friends.

She was carrying a pink wreath with "Justin's Angels" written on it in big letters.

The Stumbaugh team has been walking in the relay for four years.

"Basically, all of the walkers have been touched by cancer in some way, either through the death of a family member or friend, or they are survivors themselves," Kristine said. "Everyone has their own reason to relay. People who lost someone say they want to do something. That's why we do the relay. It provides hope."

Kristine, 51, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993.

"I was given a 95 percent chance of a recurrence, but they were wrong. I'm still here," she said.

Teams set up tents and campers for members to rest or eat between jaunts around the track.

"Some of them bring in gourmet food," Kristine said. "This is very much a community gathering."

The Luminaria Ceremony, a poignant feature of the event, takes place at 9 p.m. on the Friday night of the relay, Kristine said.

Hundreds of luminaires are placed and lighted around the quarter-mile track. It's a time for soft music and reflection, Kristine said.

About 1,000 people do a silent lap around the track in honor of survivors and lost loved ones, she said.

Each walker brings in an average of $100. Teams average $2,000, Kristine said.

Last year, volunteers raised $176,000, she said.

Two other walks are held in Franklin County - one in Chambersburg, Pa., which held its first walk last year, and the other in Shippensburg, Pa.

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