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Relay raises $158,000 for fight against cancer

June 07, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Poised on the triangular envelope from which it emerged, Brenda Hopkins' butterfly seemed reluctant to take to the air.

Hopkins blew gently on the butterfly, which took wing and joined more than 100 others Sunday at Berkeley County Relay For Life 2004. Butterflies were given to each of the 115 cancer survivors who registered for the event, according to co-chairperson Mary Lou Geary.

According to an old Native American legend, one can whisper a wish or prayer to a butterfly, which will then take it to the Great Spirit, Geary said. The butterfly has become a symbol of the hopes and prayers of cancer survivors and are released each year at the relay, she said.

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If some of those wishes included raising a great deal of money for patient services and cancer research, Sunday's relay made them come true.

"We're hoping for $135,000. I think we'll top that," said Katie Palmer, the team recruitment chairperson in charge of bringing together the 54 teams and approximately 900 walkers for the relay.

"We're at $158,000 and counting," Geary said Sunday evening. Last year's relay raised about $126,000.

For the second year in a row, the relay, which was to have been held Saturday, was postponed to Sunday due to rain.

"It's not a relay. It's a rerun," Geary said.

Despite overcast skies, volunteers, walkers and survivors crowded the infield of Cobourn Field behind Martinsburg High School. The event was dedicated to the memory of Beverly Glover, a nurse who died last year after a seven-year battle with cancer.

"She was more than just a ray of sunshine. She was the sun itself," Debbie Glover of Martinsburg said of her late mother. Despite her illness, Beverly Glover continued to offer hope and encouragement to others until the end, she said.

"She died with dignity, on her own terms, with God's blessing," her daughter said.

Geary said some of the money raised will pay for patient transportation to and from appointments and to help others with the cost of medication. The rest will go to research.

"The answer to cancer is the research to get rid of it," Geary said.

"The Heroes," a team of cancer survivors, lived up to its name, raising $12,000 for the relay, Geary said. Jon Jack of Martinsburg was the individual who raised the most money, $5,100, she said.

"I retired in '98 and two weeks later I had breast cancer," Hopkins said. Her family was walking with her Sunday but she said, "This is my day."

"Because we made it," said Debbie Hotinger, a cancer survivor of seven years about why she was walking Sunday.

"Those are our heroes, the people who survive and come back every year and say, 'Cancer, you can't have me,'" Geary said.

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