FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. — Barbara Kaczmarek drove four hours from Pittsburgh, Pa., to walk in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Chambersburg just to support her friend.
Kacmarek’s friend, Tamee Havrilla, who lives in Chambersburg, Pa., is a breast cancer survivor.
“I got sponsors in Pittsburgh, and I took off work because I wanted to be here to support her,” Kaczmarek said as she walked around the half-mile paved path at Norlo Park.
“Life is precious, and we don’t think about that. You need to not take it for granted. You need to make every moment precious,” she said.
Kaczmarek, along with about 213 others, participated in the 24-hour event that started on Friday at 2 p.m.
About 19 teams took turns walking around the trail to raise money for cancer research and programs. Each team was asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event.
Many of the teams pitched tents to honor their 24-hour walking commitment.
Jennifer Kessel, who manages three relays in the area as an income-development representative for the American Cancer Society, said she is amazed at the commitment of those who participate in the relay.
“Relayers have the same passion, and it’s truly an amazing thing. Different ages, genders, races and backgrounds — they are all here for the same reason. It’s a really beautiful thing,” Kessel said.
Every year, an average of 837 Franklin County residents will develop cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
“We’re trying to raise funds as well as awareness,” Kessel said.
The goal of this year’s relay is to raise $33,000. Last year the event raised $27,464, according to Kessel.
It was the first time Nichole Kunkle of Chambersburg and her son Vance, 8, walked in a relay. They walked for Kunkle’s friend, Maegen Hess, a cancer survivor.
“She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2010 when she was 35-years-old,” Kunkle said. “It was heart wrenching, but she’s been a trooper through it all. She’s always had a smile on her face and taken it head on.”
Hess has been cancer free for two years and formed a relay team called Luvin’ Life.
“I came home, and went to the doctors and wasn’t expecting anything, and they referred me to a cancer specialist in Harrisburg — and the whole world kind of changed,” said Hess, tears welling up in her eyes.
But Hess is a fighter, and now that she is cancer free, she’s giving back.
“I’m thinking how lucky I am to be here to walk and hoping to raise money to help the American Cancer Society so they can continue their education and their research,” she said.
Lori Jones and her family have lost a lot of loved ones to cancer. With each step, Jones hoped to inch closer to a cure.
“Because my children have been so touched by cancer, they feel helpless like there’s nothing they can do. This is a way to get involved so they feel like they are doing their part,” Jones said.