Fifteen teams tackle Relay for Life

The Susquehanna County Relay for Life this Friday and Saturday at Montrose Area High School isn’t just about walking and it isn’t just about raising money for a worthy cause.

It’s about people.
Lives touched and forever changed by cancer.
Most of the participants that make up the 15 teams at this year’s Relay have been touched by cancer in a personal way – and that is why they walk.
There is a reason, a hope and a face behind every team.
“Remission Possible” team captain Donna Conklin walks for her husband, Dwayne, who was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in 2008.
“Never in a million years would I have imagined that someone that I love so much and so completely could be diagnosed with a deadly disease,” Conklin said. “December 12, 2008 changed me forever.
“As I sat in the emergency room at Barnes Kasson Hospital, I wondered what could possibly be going on with Dwayne. Afterwards we passed the blood lab and I saw three doctors looking at his blood work. Then, when Dr Mirza told Dwayne, “We believe you have Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia,” my world all but fell apart.
Following a confirmation of his diagnosis by an oncologist, Dwayne was placed on medication for CML.
Conklin said, “I look back at the past year in amazement. Dwayne was fortunate that he did not have to go through the pain and sickness that most chemotherapy drugs cause. He never lost his hair, he never got sick – we were lucky.”
Last year, the couple attended their first Relay for Life.
“I didn’t know how Dwayne would handle it,” said Conklin, “but I have to admit, I was frustrated with him because he didn’t look at himself as a survivor. I told him that he was standing there, taking breaths, with a disease in his body. He was, in fact, a survivor.”
It was then Conklin made the decision to form a Relay team as her part in the fight against cancer. “I wanted to help with the efforts of making it so this disease doesn’t rob anyone of his or her life,” she said.
Earlier this year, Dwayne found out his CML was in remission. “At that point, he felt like a survivor,” said Conklin.
And she has become a strong supporter of Relay for Life.
Conkin said, “I love going to our meetings and seeing those sitting around me that are willing to dedicate time in their lives to fight this disease. Sometimes, I think people think that it’s all fun and games, and while it is fun, it’s work as well. It’s taking time to think of ways to raise money, other than just the walk.”
She continued, “It’s thinking of those that have touched our lives in one way or another that have been affected by cancer, but most of all, it’s the hope for a cure – the hope for more birthdays!”
Conklin said the Relay has even helped her family and friends come together for a common cause.
“We realize this disease has touched us personally,” Conklin said. “Cancer has a face – in fact, cancer has many faces, but my goal and challenge for our team is to keep those faces around as long as we can – because we love them, and because our world is better because of them.”
In addition to Remission Possible, other teams and people participating in this year’s Relay include:
Relay Chair Peter Bell – Bell started attending Relay in the mid-1990s with his cousin Kim Beardsley who was on a team. In 1999, Bell started the South Auburn Grange Team, sponsored by South Auburn Grange #1188. It was only Bell and his sister that participated that year and the two sold roasted sweet corn. “It’s still a Relay favorite,” said Bell.
After his years in college, Bell returned to Relay in 2009 as the event co-chair and a member of the South Auburn Community Team and was selected to chair this year’s event.
Bell said, “My family has lost several members due to cancer and there are still several battling it every day, so my heart is truly in the fight against cancer. There are very few people today that aren’t related or know someone that has cancer or has succumbed to it.”
Catherine’s Crusaders – Team Captain Jennifer Strickland. This is the fourth year Catherine’s Crusaders have fielded a team; but their not newcomers to Relay. It’s Strickland’s ninth year at the event. The team was once part of the Fairdale Grange team. She walks in memory of her grandmother Catherine Arnold who died of breast cancer. One of the original people who started the Susquehanna County Relay for Life, Arnold passed the legacy on to her family. For Strickland, the event means “finding a cure.”
Button-Weller – Team Captain: Jennifer Button has been participating in Relay for Life in Susquehanna County for the past six years. Her father, Don Button, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003 and is in remission. Button-Weller said she walks for the camaraderie and the team has gotten to know a lot of people through the event. Raising money to further research is also an important part of Relay for the team captain.
South Auburn Community – Team Captain: Tammy Schaeffer. Schaeffer has been involved in Relay for Life for the past 13-14 years. She lost her first husband, Chuck Love, to cancer in 2003. She participated before but the loss of her husband is one of the reasons she continued. For Schaeffer, Relay “means a hope that someday, someone else doesn’t have to go through what Chuck, me and our family went through.”
United Fire Company – Team Captain: Renee Coy-Daly. Daly is a first-year captain of a first-year team. She said all the team members had been touched by cancer pretty closely. Her grandfather is also on the team. Daly said he has been involved in Relay in some way since the death of his wife – Daly’s grandmother – Maria.
Gibson Gaitors – Team Captain: Dawn Meagher. This is Meagher’s ninth year at the Susqhanna County Relay. She walks because her father was diagnosed with cancer and succumbed to the disease in 2007. “I want to help find a cure so other people can have their dads and grandpas longer,” said Meagher.
Holy Name of Mary – Team Captain: Nick Delaney. This is the first year walking for the HNM team of youths led by Delaney. “I want to help out the community and help out people who have cancer,” said the team captain.
Presbydestrians – Team Captain: Elizabeth Ralston. This Relay marks Ralston’s ninth year participating in the event. She walks for family members who are gone and “because this is a great cause.”
Scouting for a Cure – Team Captain: Ann Rudick. This is Rudick’s first year with Relay and she’s bringing a team made up of Brownie and Junior Girl Scouts from New Milford. The event gives the girls the opportunity to help out a worthy cause – while having fun in the process.
Fairdale Grange – Team Captains: Kathy Parks and Dave Hibbard.
A Penny for Your Thoughts – Team Captain: Cheyenne Darrenkemp
WestLenoxBaptistChurch – Team Captain: Heather Winn.
EMHS – Team Captain: Catherine Rauch.
Peoples National Bank – Team Captain: Randi Blank.
Hope Floats (Felix-Hinds) – Team Captain: Gwenn Diaz.