Faces of this weekend’s Relay for Life

BY STACI WILSON

Peter Bell

Some Relay for the community.

Some Relay for a loved one lost.

They all Relay for the hope of “just one more birthday.”

The Susquehanna County Relay for Life this Friday and Saturday at Montrose Area High School celebrates that “birthday” wish – the theme of this year’s event.

Peter Bell, a member of the South Auburn Community team chairs the event.

Gail Batzel

Honorary Chair Gail Batzel is happy to be able to join this year’s birthday celebration.

Batzel, of Harford, is a uterine cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in December 2009.

Batzel said she always knew she would get cancer – she just didn’t know what cancer she would have.

She said many in her family had battled the disease. Batzel lost both her father and nephew to cancer.

“I decided it was time I needed to do something,” Batzel said. This is her first year being part of Relay for Life. She is a member of the team “Angels Among Us.”

Dave Hibbard

Batzel said her daughter agreed to Relay with her – and then her husband also joined in.

“It has become a family event,” she said.

Batzel’s sister, a breast cancer survivor, will join her to walk the Survivor’s Lap and at the Survivors/Caregivers’ dinner on Friday evening.

“We’re going to do it together,” Batzel said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Debbie Smith

Angels Among Us

Team Captain: Debbie Smith. This is the first year the team ‘Angels Among Us’ is involved in Relay. The team, headed is made up of family, friends, survivors and caregivers.

The team was founded to honor Smith’s sister, Judy Beers-Betts who was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in November 2009. After an 18-month battle, Beers-Betts lost the fight earlier this year on April 21.

Smith said, “Our families have lost several members due to cancer

Martha Lott

and there are still several battling it every day, so our hearts are truly in the fight against cancer.”

We are walking in memory and in honor of our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nephews, cousins and friends, Smith said.

Smith said, “We need not be victims! We can and we will turn this experience to ultimate good in our services to others. The choice is ours.”

We are walking for all of them, she said, for you and for me….

Jennifer Strickland

“walking so that no one else ever has to hear the words, ‘You have cancer’ without hearing ‘and we’ve got the cure.’”

Fairdale Grange

Team Captain: Dave Hibbard. Fairdale Grange is the only team that has participated in all 17 years of the Susquehanna County Relay for Life, said team co-captain Kathy Parks.

The Grange team Relays as a community service. In its 17 years, the team has raised over $70,000 for the American Cancer Society as part of its Relay for Life efforts.

Dawn Meagher

South Auburn Community

Team Captain: Martha Lott. South Auburn Community team began around 15 years ago. It started off as one person selling roasted corn at the Relay for Life event.

The South Auburn Grange than took over the following year, the next year the South Auburn Grange asked the South Auburn United Methodist Church Youth Group to take on the team.  The team has evolved into a community event with the South Auburn Grange sponsoring the team each year.

Jennifer Button-Weller

Team members Lott, Tammy Schaeffer, Karen Adams, Louise Hicks, Ginger Shadduck, Bea Gardner, Clara Burke, Irma Beardslee and Carol Nygren work hard through out the year raising funds, helping to plan the relay, and helping at the relay.

South Auburn started by raising less than $100 the first few years at the Relay to raising over $20,000 one year.

Why does this team and community work so hard to raise funds and awareness for cancer? They fight because many have been affected by this disease. In 2003 the team lost one of its members, Chuck Love, to cancer.

Victoria Murty

Catherine’s Crusaders

Team Captains Jennifer Strickland and Rhonda Arnold. This is the fifth year Catherine’s Crusaders have fielded a team; but they are not newcomers to Relay. It’s Strickland’s tenth year at the event.

The team is comprised of four generations of Catherine Arnold’s loved ones and they walk in honor of her. Arnold died of breast cancer.

One of the original people who started the Susquehanna County Relay for Life, Catherine Arnold passed the legacy on to her family.

Renee Daly

For Strickland, the event means “finding a cure.”

Button-Weller

Captain: Jennifer Button-Weller. This will be the Button-Weller Relay team’s 8th year participating in the Relay For Life. In 2003 the team captain’s father, Donnie Button, was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.

Button-Weller said after a long, hard battle her father was told he was in remission in March 2004. He underwent a clinical trial. The treatment that he received saved his life.

Donna Conklin

Button –Weller said, “As a family we decided that we wanted to get more involved and give back to the American Cancer Society. We want more families to have the positive experience that we had.”

Button-Weller said that through Relay for Life team members have met some very special people that have touched their lives in ways that can’t be described.

“Some have fought the battle and won and others have ‘earned their wings’ and will forever live on in our memories,” Button-Weller said.

Renegade Angels

Team Captain: Victoria Murty. This is the second year the youth group from Holy Name of Mary Church, Montrose, has been involved in Relay for Life.

Murty said the team is participating in Relay for Life as a community service project.

United Fire Company

Team Captain Renee Coy-Daly heads up the second year United Fire Company team. She said all the team members had been touched by cancer pretty closely.

Presbydestrians

Team Captain: Elizabeth Ralston. This Relay marks Ralston’s tenth year participating in the event. She walks for family members who are gone and “because this is a great cause.”

Gibson Gaitors

Team Captain: Dawn Meagher. This is Meagher’s tenth year at the Susquehanna 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.

Remission Possible

Team captain: Donna Conklin walks for her husband, Dwayne, who was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in 2008 and is now in remission.

Conklin that for her Relay for Life means “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!”

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What’s at the Relay?

The annual event helps raise funds for American Cancer Society programs and will be held at the Montrose Area High School track.

Relay brings together cancer survivors, caregivers and the community in a fun-filled, 24-hour event that features camping, contests and food in addition to team member walking.

But you don’t need to be a member of a Relay for Life team to have a great time at the event.

Teams will have campsites open at 3 p.m. with games, basket raffles and food available for purchase by all attendees.

Friday night’s official events kick off with opening ceremonies at 5:30 p.m.; followed by the survivor/caregiver ceremony.

Survivor and caregivers are also invited to attend a special dinner held in their honor at 6:30 p.m., sponsored by Peoples Neighborhood Bank.

The Luminaria ceremony takes place 9-9:30 p.m. Luminaria are available for purchase until 8 p.m.

Games, contest and activities continue throughout the night into Saturday morning.

Peoples Neighborhood Bank is also sponsoring a free breakfast for team campers at 8 a.m.; followed by morning exercises led by the Endless Mountains Health Systems team.

The closing ceremony takes place at 12:30 p.m. with team members making a final lap around the track at 1 p.m.

For more information about Susquehanna County Relay for Life, contact Peter Bell at peterbell2203@yahoo.com or Cindy Delaney at cindy.delaney@cancer.org or visit them on facebook or at www.relayforlife.org/pasusquehanna