VERSAILLES — For those who have gone face to face with cancer and survived, clouds and rain cannot dampen their spirits.
It was certainly no deterrent to cancer survivors, their caregivers, and their friends and families as the Darke County chapter of the American Cancer Society kicked off its 13th annual Relay for Life Friday at Heritage Park in Versailles.
Cancer survivors took the first lap around the park’s pond, with caregivers taking the second lap. Members of eight different teams, as well as individual participants, followed them. The goal is to have someone continually walking the path from 6 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Saturday.
Relay For Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, staffed and coordinated by volunteers in more than 5,200 communities and 27 countries around the world. In addition to a fundraising event, it is an opportunity for participants to remember those who’ve lost their lives to cancer and to celebrate those who have beaten the odds.
After the singing of the National Anthem and an invocation, the clouds broke and sunshine returned, and a rainbow seemed to grant its blessing to the proceedings. Event Lead Joyce Johnson then had cancer survivors come forward to be honored before beginning their walk. They were cheered on by others as they circled the pond.
Johnson, a cancer survivor herself who has been involved with the event since 2009, is in her second year as event lead.
“It is exciting to work with the FFA’s, the other cancer survivors,” said Johnson. “We have programs, such as the 24-hour nurse line, Road to Recovery, Look and Feel Better…so many programs.”
Rain was no impediment to the participants at this year’s relay.
“Cancer doesn’t sleep. Cancer doesn’t take a vacation,” said Johnson. “We have to fight every day. Sometimes we’re in radiation five days a week. We don’t get a break.”
Everyone present has some connection to the fight against cancer, either personally or by virtue of being a relative or friend.
Ali Ghysels, in her first year as a Relay for Life Regional Community Manager, got involved after her mother survived a bout with cancer. She estimated approximately 200 people would likely take part in the relay.
“The teams have somebody on the path at all times, and individuals come and walk as well,” she said. “It’s a great cause and everyone is so warm and welcoming. It’s an awesome thing to get the community involved to fight and find a cure.”
“It’s beautiful. God is blessing us for sure,” she added, commenting on the weather’s drastic turn from rain to sun as the event started. “It’s gorgeous. We couldn’t ask for better weather now.”
A luminaria ceremony was slated to be held after dark, in which candles are lit to honor those who have succumbed to cancer and those who continue to fight on against the disease.
For more information on Relay For Life, go online to www.RelayForLife.org/DarkeCounty.