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Relay for Life surpasses goal

By Carol McIntire and
Leigh Ann Rutledge

Relay for Life
GROUP EFFORT. Members of McCook Ladies Bowlers Relay for Life team gather around seven-year old Brenna Heiss (front center) of Jefferson County. Heiss and her mom, Sarena, (back row far left) attended Carroll County’s Relay to support fellow bowlers in their “strike” against cancer. The team “spared” no expense to help “finish the fight.”

Carroll County Relay for Life participants fought back, walked and even ran during the 18-hour event held June 27 and 28 at the Carroll County Fairgrounds.

The celebration kicked off Friday evening with the ribbon cutting and survivors walk and wrapped up Saturday morning when, during closing ceremonies, it was announced relayers blew away their $80,000 goal! As of 9 a.m. that morning, $83,917.64 had been collected in the fight against cancer. Relay officials noted the fundraising period doesn’t close until Aug. 31 and expect additional money to be added to that total.

“We are so happy we were able to surpass our goal and so very grateful to the committee, team captains, relayers and our entire community which made it happen,” said Co-Chair Carol McIntire. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of each of them. I always say when it comes to Relay, every penny counts in the fight against cancer.”

Eleven-year-old Cooper Schaar, a three-time cancer survivor who celebrated his birthday Friday at Relay, cut the ribbon to begin the festivities. The Relay committee surprised Schaar with a birthday cake and everyone in attendance sang Happy Birthday to him. Later in the evening hours, after participating in the frozen t-shirt, hula hoop, jump rope and limbo contests, Schaar said celebrating his birthday at Relay was “pretty cool.”

“I got lots of birthday cards, too,” he said.

Seventeen teams participated in the event, walking laps around the track in the fashion of a relay race all night long and into the morning hours. A 5K run/walk was held Saturday morning in conjunction with Relay. The race, called Run for Rosie, is held in remembrance of Roselyn Derby who lost her battle with adrenal cancer in 2010.

Why do so many people Relay? Many were experiencing their first Relay for Life, some have participated since the Carroll County event began and a few “Relay” because their friends participate.

Jill Ujcich of Carrollton was amazed at the entire process. She is a member of the McCook Ladies Bowlers. “I bowl with Becky (Twaddle, team captain) and wanted to help her team,” said Ujcich. “Now I really want to help. The event is awesome.” Ujcich plans to return next year.

The McCook Ladies had bowlers from another county (who are included in the McCook league) walking for the team and supporting the Carroll County team fundraisers. Sarena Heiss and her daughter, Brenna, and friends are members of Carla’s Pit Crew of Jefferson County. Brenna just celebrated her 7th birthday. Instead of a party, she wanted to raise $700 to donate to Relay for Life.  She raised $1,799. When asked why she wanted to raise money for Relay, Brenna said simply, “To find a cure.”

Brenna’s Aunt Carla had breast cancer. On her personal page on the Steubenville Relay for Life page, Brenna explained she participates to make money for research for a cure. “It’s important to me because my aunt already passed away from cancer. How she got it, she just got sick. She doesn’t know how, sometimes you just get cancer,” she stated. “Sometimes the doctor can help you and sometimes the medicine doesn’t help. My Aunt Carla’s medicine helped once, but the next time it didn’t. I know where she is now; she’s in heaven.”

“”We bowl together (with McCook Ladies) and we came to support Becky and the team,” said Sarena. “When Brenna said she wanted to raise money for a cure instead of a birthday party, we helped her because she said there wasn’t anything she needed. She just wanted to ‘kick cancer’s butt’’.”

Brenna has been invited to speak at the Making Strides Breakfast in Steubenville at a later date.

 Participants  “Relay” year round, not just during the event. Several team members from Carroll County participated in the Brr! For a Cure Polar Bear Plunge Feb. 22 in Lake Milton State Park at Craig Beach.

Among those jumping into a small area of icy water which had been cleared of thick ice were Samantha Simmons and Cory Baker. Simmons and Baker represented Aultman Carrollton. Simmons became involved in Relay for Life first of all because she is an employee at Aultman.  Simmons joined the team and held bake sales to raise money. When the opportunity to “jump” in the lake, Simmons thought she’d give it a try. She recruited her friend, Baker, who said he hopes to jump again next year. Simmons said she is undecided but will probably participate again. Both were surprised by the number of people who jumped in the lake, but understand because it is such a good cause.

Baker agreed to raise money for the Polar Bear Plunge because his dad is a cancer survivor.  “Anything dealing with cancer or Relay for Life, I like to help with to give back,” he explained.

“I didn’t realize there were so many teams spread throughout the county,” said Simmons. “It is amazing what all they do to fundraise. It is such a good thing to see all the people contributing.”

John Weidebush drove from Grove City to participate in the Carroll County Relay as a member of the Fighting for Friends team. At about midnight, he had walked over nine miles around the track. He kept track of his progress by buying a string (fundraiser for one of the teams) and adding a bead to it each lap.

“My dad is in remission now,” he said of his reason to walk. “I have lost family and friends to cancer. I believe in this cause and want to do anything I can to give back.”

Several teams said they are already making plans to attend next year’s event.

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