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Relay for Life overnight event draws more than 740 participants

Garnet Stevens, who was diagnosed with two brain tumors, delivers opening message

June 17, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Five-year-old Philip Wagner gives his mother Kimberly a High five during the survivors lap of the Relay For Life Walk Friday. Kimberly was was diagnosed with breast cancer September 11, 2010.
By Chris Tilley/Staff Photographer

Garnet Stevens doesn't think of himself as a control freak.

"I'm more of a 'Yes dear, no dear, whatever you want to do dear,'" the Waynesboro Pa. resident said.

But last December, when doctors told Stevens he had two brain tumors, he found himself marveling at how much cancer took control of his life.

"It controls your schedule ... it controls how your body feels ... it controls when you eat and what you eat," Stevens said Friday evening during the opening ceremony for Relay for Life at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown.

 "One thing it doesn't control is your attitude. Every day you have a choice. You either beat cancer, or cancer beats you."

His message drew cheers and applause from fellow survivors and other supporters who gathered at the park for the annual event, an overnight American Cancer Society fundraiser in which teams camp out at the fairground, and their members take turns walking or running laps around a path.

The event kicked off with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. and a survivor lap at 6:30 p.m., after which teams were challenged to keep at least one member on the track through the end of the event at 7:15 a.m. Saturday.

There were 66 teams and more than 740 participants registered for this year's relay, planning committee member Missy DeHaven said.

The event was one of thousands of Relay for Life events being held in communities around the world this year.

Last year, there were 5,146 Relay for Life sites that together raised $388 million for the American Cancer Society, according to the Relay for Life website, www.relayforlife.org.

Begun in 1985 by a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Washington, Relay for Life is "a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease," according to the American Cancer Society.

Teams at the Washington County relay raised money before and during the event through fundraisers such as concession booths, contests and raffle tickets that buyers could enter to win elaborate gift baskets assembled by the teams in the "Basket Alley" tent.

Fundraising totals will not be known for several days, but organizers of the Washington County relay set a goal of $200,000 this year, DeHaven said.

Going into the event, "Harold & Shirley's Team" were the top fundraisers, bringing in $11,500.

Team captain Crystal Ancarrow said she and her family and friends had been participating in Relay for Life since 2002, the year both of her parents died of cancer.

"It's a nice way to honor my parents' memory and to do something productive," said Ancarrow, who is also a cancer survivor. "It's someting I can do. I can't do cancer research, but I can raise money and do what I can to make a difference."

On the web: Visit Relay for Life speaker Garnet Stevens' blog at garnetstevens.wordpress.com.

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