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Reflections from the Harrison Relay for Life

June 17, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

I was very proud of the smaller in numbers but mighty in work ability of the committee and volunteers for the Harrison County Cancer Relay for Life on June 8.

The afternoon started off very warm, with gentle breezes blowing, as workers went about putting up tents, setting up tables, laying out plastic cutlery and dishes for the survivors' meal, positioning the silent auction items and bidding papers, plus the teams putting up their tents and adding special touches.

As time wore on, those soft breezes gathered up steam and started blowing away signs, knocking over a few silent auction items, swooping up some of the bidding papers that were not taped down well and sending the white bags Lamont and I were filling for the candlelight luminaria service over the top of the registration tent.

In time, that died down, and the weather cooperated beautifully, with no heavy rain or wind storms as we have been noted to receive in years past.

During that time, Lamont started to worry. The sand we purchased and dried out in the sun for a few days was starting to run low. This was at 4:15 p.m., and my fear was if we waited until after 5 p.m. to search for more that the stores would be closed.

Patti Sabo saved the day by suggesting going to the Dollar Store and buying kitty litter to fill the bags. I thought of planting soil but that can be very moist, and it would make the bags soggy. Lamont said he got a funny look from the cashier when he plopped down three 10-pound bags of kitty litter on the counter to be scanned.

The Mizer brothers, Dru and Matthew, were great workers in loading up a wagon with high sides. Then Jace Madzia pulled off into the sunset to place the bags along the track. By walking six paces and placing each bag, they had the track lined with luminaria, and there were still bags left. Then came the job of moving a few and placing some in between.

Our job was not hard at all with the luminaria. We peeled the name of a loved one who had died or recovered from cancer off a sheet and stuck it on a bag. Lamont, down on one knee, was shoveling sand or kitty litter into the bags. I made a tunnel in the sand, inserted a candle and then went on to another, synchronized all the way.

I don't know how it was happening, but I managed to get black grease all over the front of one Cancer Society shirt and changed to the yellow committee one - promptly getting grease on both the front and back of it also.

The purple survivor shirts had such a great motto on the back. "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about dancing in the rain." A fabulous idea for everyone.

Dolly Smith made giant, luscious cupcakes for the survivors and their caretakers to light and sing "Happy Birthday." She had vanilla, red devils food and chocolate cupcakes nestled in tiered stands, and it was almost too beautiful to take off the rack and eat. But we did.

Dolly and her daughter-in-law, Patti Sabo whipped up 100 of the pretty cupcakes the night before the relay.

Patti, who was in charge of locating and inviting survivors to a nice meal following their survivor walk, also made arrangements for the meal. She, Dolly and Anna Mizer got together many door prizes that were distributed according to birthdays.

Patti has been working with the Harrison relay as coordinator and in other capacities for many years and remarked that a cancer survivor is never displeased with anything.

"They have been through so much in their treatment that nothing else ever bothers them." And I know that Lamont and I were totally amazed and appreciative of what she and her committee had done.

I learned something about the caregivers walk.... I cannot walk backwards very fast. While taking the customary caregiver stroll around the track, I noticed a little family together ahead of us. I ran to get in front of them and rather than stopping the walkers to take a picture, I was pedaling backwards as fast as my short legs would take me, which wasn't too speedy. But I had a big traffic jam of walkers behind me.

Dr. Lewis Stevens and Lamont were walking together and laughing at my attempts. Other photographers make running backwards and taking photos look easy....only if you are 50 years younger.

Anthony Bailey, as the music maker, does a wonderful job of putting the right music to the right situation. And he had the team members running about on the quiz questions.

I always enjoy the singing of Roger and Bonnie Logsdon. They sang "God Bless the USA" and a song I have loved from church, "My Anchor Holds."

Nancy Stephenson did a great job with the silent auction. I kept the pens at some of the bidding stations quite warm and ended up getting Jay and Darin birthday gifts, some beauty products for myself and a lovely basket I am undecided about keeping or giving as a gift.

Bethani Barsch, staff partner with the American Cancer Society, is new in Harrison County. She was doing dual duty registering survivors and taking luminaria orders with another woman who looked very much like her. I asked if they were sisters and received a hearty laugh - they are mother and daughter.

I find that her mother is the former Sheila Panepucci, and she had been to my house many times in her high school years. She recognized me first, then I saw the young girl I once knew in her appearance.

I met and talked with many cancer survivors and some who are working toward that goal at the relay. I can only say that I admire their courage and their fight to go on with life.

Congratulations to you, Anisa Rocchi and Mindy Madzia, for the fine job you did in your first year on the job.

I saw the two of you jogging around the complex to get many things done, and I know you had to be exhausted after the 18 hours.

But it was a job well done.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at emccoy@heraldstaronlinecom.

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