Relay for Life of Washington County has goal of raising about $165,000

June 15, 2013|BY KAUSTUV BASU |
  • Tom Suffecool of Hagerstown is hugged by his niece Donna Creager of Fairplay Friday after walking the cancer survivor lap during the Relay for Life at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown.
By Colleen McGrath / Staff Photographer

More than 600 people signed up this year to take part in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Washington County, a fundraising event that began Friday afternoon and was scheduled to extend into the morning hours Saturday.

Cancer survivors, their families, caregivers and assorted well-wishers thronged to the relay, which was held at Hagerstown’s Fairgrounds Park.

Missy DeHaven, co-chairwoman of the event, said the relay had 623 registered participants from 56 teams this year.

“As of 5:30 p.m. we have raised $102,000. We have a goal of raising about $165,000,” DeHaven said.

The theme of this year’s relay was “cruising for more birthdays,” she said.

DeHaven said she started taking part in the Relay for Life after two students at Williamsport High School, which her daughter attends, were diagnosed with cancer and later lost their battle with the disease.

It was an emotional event for many whose lives have been touched by cancer, she said.

During the opening ceremony Friday, DeHaven struggled to hold back tears as she addressed the gathering.

Lorain Dent, who was part of Team Citi, said that she has been a “cancer survivor” for 16 years.

“I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was 20 years old,” she said.

The relay began with the “Survivor Lap,” where cancer survivors, many of them wearing purple T-shirts, walked around the park.

Melissa Wheatcraft, a cancer survivor who is a Hagerstown resident, said she was diagnosed with lung cancer in mid-2011.

Her cancer is “treatable but not curable.”

“I still feel good .... I’m doing relatively well,” she said.

She said the relay was an avenue of providing hope to those with cancer and their families.

“Hope is everything,” she said.

Wheatcraft, who spoke during the opening ceremony, told the gathering to believe in faith, family and friends.

“I have learned that all friendships, old and new, are important, and that each person comes in to your life for a purpose,” she said.

“Never be afraid to try new things, to pursue new friendships and to continue to live,” she said.

“How and when we die we have little control of. How we live is up to us. I’m choosing to live a full life — hopeful, helpful, useful ... having faith, making peace with myself and God,” Wheatcraft said.

Another participant, Sharon Gildee, who was told that she had cancer of the uterus in 2007, said that she keeps hoping that a cure will be found for the disease.

She is cancer free now.

“It feels wonderful. It feels like I’ve gotten a new life ....,” she said.

Her husband, John Gildee, was later diagnosed with esophageal cancer and then cancer of the bladder.

He, too, is cancer free now and “gets checked every three months,” Sharon Gildee said.

She said the Relay for Life buoys her spirits.

“This is hope,” Gildee said looking around at the hundreds of participants Friday.

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