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Relay for Life held to remember, celebrate
By: ROCHELLE A. SHENK Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
Throughout the 24-hour-long 12th-annual Relay for Life of Norlanco, which was held this past weekend, participants focused on celebrating survivors who have overcome cancer, remembered those who lost their lives to the disease and raised money for research programs.
Once again, the Cocalico High School stadium was the venue where the local community came to support the efforts of the American Cancer Society. This year, according to event coordinators, the relay raised $266,791 for the organization.
Paula Spohn, chair of event, said that this year 52 teams including 650 participants took part in the event. Each team tried to keep at least one member on the track at all times, especially throughout the night, because "cancer never sleeps."
The relay kicked off with a cancer survivor and caregiver dinner reception.
"We had a record number of survivors at the dinner — approximately 300 survivors and 200 caregivers. It was wonderful to have so many people come out — having a record number of people attend only proves that what we’re doing is helping to save lives, and that’s very fulfilling," Spohn said.
This year’s event featured themed laps, contests, karaoke, movies and musical performances by local entertainers including Joe Lerman and the Cocalico Alumni Band. Spohn noted that there was something going on every hour.
"On Friday night, we celebrate survivors with the dinner and the evening luminary service. As we go into the darkness that symbolizes the dark hours of a cancer diagnosis. As daybreak comes that symbolizes the hope of treatment," she said. "That’s when we fight back — we ask people to make a commitment for their life, or to share their commitment with someone else, to eat healthy and get cancer screenings."
This was Spohn’s eighth year being involved with the event, and her fourth, and she said last, as chair.
"Many people are involved in RFL who have been touched by cancer in some way — a relative, friend, neighbor or church member. I’ve been relaying since my sister was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer in 2004. She died in 2005, and I’ve continued to participate in her honor," she said.
Cancer also touched her life in December 2010, when her daughter was diagnosed with skin cancer. Spohn said that she has been treated and is now doing well. Spohn’s team, Bonnie’s Believers, has been one of the top three fundraisers for RLF every year except for its fist, and this year the team raised the second highest amount of money. She noted that the team raises funds for RLF year-round.
"The two greatest moments for me at the RLF event are the opening ceremony and the luminary service," she said. "The opening ceremony with the big line of survivors is really touching, and the luminary service awes me because of all the candles that are lit."
Spohn said that RLF is really time-consuming, but "it’s probably the best thing that I’ve ever done."
The Norlanco event is one of four RLF events held in the county. Relay for Life was started in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash. by Dr. Gordon Klatt. According to the American Cancer Society, from 1985 to April 28, 2011, RLF has raised $4 billion through 57,000 relays. More RELAY, page A18