Jon Stevens

Greene behind Relay for Life

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This weekend will mark the 16th year teams of walkers have come together to participate in the American Cancer Society’s most successful fundraiser and the organization’s signature event, Relay for Life.


The 24-hour event will kick off at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Waynesburg Central High School Raider Field of Pride, and conclude at 8 a.m. Sunday. In between, there will be a host of activities, including the traditional first lap walked by cancer survivors and the equally moving luminaria ceremony, where candles are placed in luminaria bags situated around the track.


These luminaria bags often display the names of loved ones who died from cancer or who continue to fight the dreaded disease.


I always have been amazed by the number of Greene Countians who consistently turn out to go that extra mile, literally, for the American Cancer Society’s event. And I am even more amazed a county the size of Greene has raised more than $1.8 million.


“This is an event that Greene County has just gone above and beyond to raise funds for,” said Janice Blair-Martin, chair of Relay For Life of Greene County, when she accepted a proclamation from Greene County commissioners acknowledging Friday as Paint Greene County Purple Day. Purple is the official color of Relay For Life.


And, who would have thought back in 1985, when Dr. Gordon Klatt from Tacoma, Wash., walked around the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society, there would be more than 5,000 Relay For Life events taking place across 20 countries now.


One thing Blair-Martin said that demonstrated Greene County’s remarkable achievements over the last 15 years was that the county was recognized with a national award for its Relay for Life fundraising efforts.


She said in 2012, the county was ranked second in the nation for per capita fundraising when it came to Relay for Life. That translates to about $6 per person. That’s quite an achievement for a county often considered one of the poorest in the state.


Having covered many Relays over the years, I continue to be impressed with the number of teams that sign up and the amount of money that is raised for cancer research, education and patient support services.


This is a tribute to the event’s organizers and to residents of all ages, sizes and health conditions who walk around and around the track, recognizing they can provide help and, most important, hope for a family member or neighbor.


I remember when the first year’s goal was a modest $10,000. When the final tally came in, Greene County’s inaugural Relay for Life in 1999 raised $33,000.


The second year, the county obliterated its $40,000 goal by $16,000; in 2001, the local event brought in $76,000; and in the subsequent years the amounts exceeded $100,000.


This year’s goal is $171,000 and I know those planning the event will not rest on their laurels because I know there are a lot of caring and compassionate people living in this county


I remember several years ago, there was a sign at one end of the high school’s athletic field that captured the reason why hundreds of walkers, from high school students to bankers to bikers, sign up each year for the event.


Each time walkers rounded the track, the sign would remind them, “There is no finish line until we find a cure!”


Jon Stevens is Greene County bureau chief and can be reached at jstevens@observer-reporter.com.


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