Relaying together

Community works to support cancer research and awareness

EVART — Hundreds of Osceola County residents including cancer survivors, caregivers and their friends and families walked more than 1,000 miles collectively Saturday at the Osceola County Fairgrounds to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research during the annual Relay for Life.

Approximately 250 people were expected to participate in the event, according to Mary Lynn Robertson, Relay for Life community manager. This is the first year the Osceola County Relay for Life has been condensed into a single day, she added.

“We used to do a 24-hour event Friday and Saturday. Now, we are just doing Saturday for 12 hours,” she said. “We had some comments from survivors who said it was difficult to get here on Friday with their work schedules. We thought we would try to accommodate people and see how it will go.”

There was a lot of heat and very little breeze as the event started and organizers worked hard to make sure all of the participants stayed hydrated, Robertson said. The hot day may have meant some people who planned to walk in the relay opted for different, cooler activities at the beach or on the river.

“The weather is a ride, it goes up and down,” Robertson said. “Today is one of the up days, so folks may go to the water. It’s hot – I’m not going to deny it. Am I glad it’s hot instead of raining? Yes. But is it going to be difficult and is it going to be a safety concern? It is.”

Thirteen teams registered for the event and raised money throughout the year. At the start of the event, the relay already had raised more than $12,000 toward a $27,000 goal, with money flowing in throughout the day.

“The teams are encouraged to raise their money prior to the event,” Robertson said. “This is their celebration for all their hard work. This is the time we are here for the survivors – that’s why we do what we do.”

All of the money raised during the event goes toward cancer research, education and prevention. In addition to raising funds, the event raises the spirits of everyone involved, Robertson said.

“Today is difficult for some people who have lost a loved one, so there is that factor that makes it very emotional,” she said. “That’s why we encourage others to come; we need more people to help us fight. It’s nice when you see all of the survivors out there – you get goosebumps.

“It’s really rewarding to know you tried your best to do something good. Someday I might not have a job, but that’s OK. I’m alright with it.”

Cancer survivors and father-son pair Bob and BJ Foster were among the walkers who took a lap before enjoying a survivor and caregiver dinner along with BJ’s wife, Judy. Bob stressed the importance of early detection – which he said is a big part of why he and his son are around to participate in the relay.

“Cancer started in my family a long time before me,” he said. “It’s never too early to get checked. If you’re 4 years old you should get checked just to establish a baseline.”

Kamber Cushman was one of the youngest cancer survivors who participated in the event, accompanied by several of her friends. Having the support of friends, family and complete strangers is “cool,” she said.

“It’s neat to know that people care,” she said.