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Relay for Life walkers take steps for a cause

June 26, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Anne DeVere survived the bombing of Germany during World War II. Then, she survived cancer.

She's been free of the disease for 25 years.

"I'm a tough old horse," said DeVere, 73, of Charles Town, W.Va.

Despite a recent knee replacement, DeVere joined about 260 people Friday at the Jefferson County Relay for Life.

Volunteers were well on their way toward meeting a fund-raising goal of $35,000 for the American Cancer Society, said Julie Overbaugh, who works for the nonprofit's regional office in Winchester, Va.

"The hard part's done, raising the money. Now it's just the camaraderie," said Debbie Cloonan, 38, of Summit Point, W.Va.

Relay for Life volunteers were planning to camp at Jefferson High School until 7 this morning, doing laps around the track to show their stamina and give hope to those battling cancer.

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DeVere, one of the cancer survivors, was born and raised in Germany. Her school in Munich closed during and after the war, but she was able to continue her studies through the help of tutors.

Food was heavily rationed, so she and her family gathered what was left after the harvest of nearby farms and picked mushrooms and berries in the forest.

"After you survive that kind of war, you can survive most anything else," she said.

After college, she met her husband, who was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Air Force after the war ended.

They settled in the United States and had two sons.

DeVere was diagnosed with cancer in the early 1970s. Although it had spread throughout her uterus, ovaries and bladder, several surgeries were successful in wiping out the disease.

Unfortunately, many of the people participating in the Relay for Life had family members who weren't so lucky.

Cloonan lost her mother to breast cancer.

Rhonda Mason lost her father.

Mason coordinated a team of Jefferson County school bus drivers, who gathered under a large Army green canopy.

Last year, the bus drivers raised $5,500, more than any other single team. This year, they were going to beat that with $7,000, she said.

"It can't be for a better cause," she said.

Turnout for the weekend event would have been higher if the weather had cooperated, Overbaugh said.

As volunteers set up their tents and brought in their supplies of food Friday afternoon, the skies looked like they were brewing a tornado, Cloonan said.

All that resulted was a trickle of rain by the time the opening ceremony began at 7 p.m.

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