LEWISTOWN - Fighting cancer is a community effort everybody is involved.
10 a.m.: It's Saturday morning and the park is buzzing with activity. Area residents haul chairs, tents and food to set up their campsites or vending areas. Microphones and equipment are tested on the stage. Although it's still early, you can feel the excitement. The community is ready for another go-round.
Saturday and Sunday marked the 16th annual Mifflin-Juniata Relay for Life, held for 24 hours at Derry Township Park in Lewistown.
Sentinel photo by KRISTEN PRICE
William Smith leads the Survivor Walk during the Mifflin-Juniata Relay for Life at Derry Township Community Park Saturday.
Sentinel photo by SAM BAUMGARDNER
Rhonda Weader, of McClure, talks to her dog Diego who is being carried by her husband Kevin during the dog lap on Saturday during the Mifflin-Juniata Relay for Life at Derry Township Community Park.
The theme, "Lights, Camera, Cure!" had participants incorporating movie and Hollywood themes into fighting back against cancer. Some campsites featured movies such as "Beauty and the Beast" or "The Wizard of Oz," while others starred celebrities from past and present, such as Elvis. Some campsites even set up mock movie theaters or movie sets. One such set, complete with two director's chairs, rated the movie they pretended to create, "C," for Cured. The ways in which participants chose to celebrate this year's theme differed, but one thing was the same, and that was the reason they were all there in the first place: to fight cancer.
Although this was only my second year participating in the Mifflin-Juniata Relay for Life, I feel I've learned a lot about the people here. Relay for Life is one community event that brings everyone together, regardless of differences. That's because no matter who you are or where you come from, you understand what cancer is. I like Relay most for this very reason.
In today's world there is so much dividing us, whether it be politics, religion or culture, but fighting to cure cancer is something most of us can agree on. It's something that brings us together. For at least the 24 hours during Relay, we as a community put aside any differences we may have and fight for something we all believe in something that has touched each and every one of us in some way.
This is why I participate in Relay. Cancer has touched my life in many ways. But when we participate, we aren't just doing it for a close friend or family member; we're also doing it for our neighbor, the lady behind us in line at the grocery store, our third-grade teacher. Because even if the disease hasn't touched those people directly, it has touched someone close to them, someone in their lives. So when we walk, whether it be for ourselves, a family member or friend, let us walk for all of our family's family and friend's friends with the hope that they will walk for ours, too. This is what makes Relay a community effort. We're all walking for everyone, because everyone has been affected by cancer.
3 p.m.: The parking lot is full. People hustle and bustle. The walking path is crowded with those eager to make a difference. Campsites are up and in full swing. They are colorful and full of life, drawing in on-lookers. The sun is peeking through the clouds, and the temperature continues to rise as the afternoon wears on. Music is playing, frozen treats are selling, and people are joining together.
I enjoy seeing everyone come out each year to Relay, full of hope and motivation. Hope is one of Relay's main messages, and I feel that message rings loud and clear at our local Relay.
But it isn't just hope the event promotes, it's also awareness. This includes awareness about the different types of cancer, and how to prevent some of them, such as getting mammograms or colorectal cancer screenings, wearing sunblock or quitting smoking. Relay is also about supporting those with cancer, and finding a cure so nobody ever has to go through the experience again. Proceeds raised during the event go to the American Cancer Society, which Relay for Life is run through. Some of that money goes out for research, and some is used right here in the community, such as for transportation so cancer patients can get to and from treatment.
I think all of that is important, because when it comes to fighting back against cancer, there isn't one simple answer or one easy task to complete. The fight takes time, effort and dedication. And it takes community support, which I am happy to be a part of.
10 p.m.: The sun set quite some time ago. Luminaria lead the way for walkers. They light up almost every inch of the path. It has been 12 hours since the event started, but participants remain focused and strong. They are ready to continue through the night.
A total of $186,515 was raised at this year's event, out of a goal of $210,000. For more information call the American Cancer Society's office in Burnham at 242-8526, or visit www.cancer.org.