Hundreds of participants, volunteers and members of the community came together Saturday afternoon and evening at the St. Robert Community Center for the annual Relay for Life of Pulaski County.
Hundreds of participants, volunteers and members of the community came together Saturday afternoon and evening at the St. Robert Community Center for the annual Relay for Life of Pulaski County. The 12-hour walk, which concluded at 1 a.m. on Sunday, raised money and awareness for cancer research and prevention. More than 20 teams from the local area and more than 300 participants took part this year. As the relay kicked off Saturday afternoon, the crowds were expecting a hot, dusty event, as temperatures hovered above the 100-degree point. But as the opening speakers took the stage, the skies darkened and short bursts of rain fell, cooling the event considerably. Tiffany York, chair of the Pulaski County Relay for Life, said the rain was the blessing in disguise that probably encouraged people to stay at the event. “This is an amazing gathering,” she said. “Just look around you, family, friends, co-workers, business and community leaders, children, grandparents and neighbors are all here for the same reason, to put an end to cancer.” As York surveyed the crowds of cheering walkers and supporters she added, “It’s exciting, it’s extremely exciting. After the 100-something degree temperatures we had earlier today I was just hoping people would show up.” The event was both a celebration of life and a chance to remember family members and friends who fought cancer. Many teams wore personalized shirts with the names or photos of their loved ones, or posted their names around the makeshift track as the reason they walked in the event. Special events took place throughout the 12-hour relay, including games for children, themed walks around the track, special rounds for survivors of cancer and a luminaria lighting ceremony. Elisabeth Beal, a breast cancer survivor, was one of the featured speakers during the opening ceremony and attended with her entire family and many supporters. She spoke about her battle with inflammatory breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2010. “I went through six months of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, six weeks of daily radiation and several other different treatments along the way and as I stand here today, I am cancer free,” Beal told the crowd. She thanked her medical team, her family, friends, fellow survivors and organizations like the American Cancer Society, which sponsors worldwide Relay for Life walks. Beal said because of fundraising efforts like Relay for Life, knowledge and treatment of various cancers have increased survival rates. “Inflammatory breast cancer, four to five years ago, most people didn’t survive,” she said. “But because of the funds that they (ACS) raises, and groups like them, there are constantly new drugs and those drugs are the reason I’m here today.” Tracelyn Sutton, a community manager with the ACS, also attended the local Relay for Life and said she was impressed by the turnout and the enthusiasm. “I so enjoy this community,” she said. “It’s really a multifaceted community … and I’m just amazed by the huge hearts in this community.” Sutton said while the relay was a fundraiser it was also designed to bring people together. “It is a celebration of life and the survivors are the center of it, but it’s a volunteer event, it’s a community event and there are huge hearts out there on this field,” she said. “We’re trying to find a cure for more than 100 different kinds of cancer. Cancer is a beast but we’re in this for the long haul.” At the conclusion of the relay, it was announced that the teams and individuals have raised more than $40,000 in donations. Pulaski County has set a goal to raise $60,000 by the end of August and donations can be made by visiting www.relayforlife.org by searching for the Relay for Life of Pulaski County, Missouri.