LEWISTOWN - The 19th annual Mifflin-Juniata Relay For Life kicked off under beautiful blue skies on Saturday morning at Derry Township Community Park. Friends, family and cancer survivors gathered at the 24-hour event to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
"We may be a small (community), but together we can make a big, big difference," said John Prendergast, plant manager at GE Inspection Technologies, during the opening ceremony.
Fifty-nine registered teams participated in this year's event and raised almost $147,000, Kim Rickert, Relay For Life chairperson, said. Although the event fell short of its $160,000 goal, the weekend was still a success.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Becky Stricker, left, of Yeagertown, and Nancy Mumper, of McVeytown, lead the Survivors Walk at the Mifflin-Juniata Relay For Life Event Saturday at Derry Township Community Park in Burnham. Stricker is a one-year survivor of thyroid cancer and Mumper is six-year survivor of breast cancer. Look for more photos at cu.lewistownsentinel.com.
"Overall, we had a great turnout and want to thank all of our teams and sponsors," she said.
The teams that raised the most money toward the final total were announced on Sunday and recognized for their contributions. The top four teams were: Team Moose, with more than $15,600; Rhodes Runners; Cancer Treatment Center; and GE Inspection Technologies.
The annual auction held by Chesney Auctioneering also raised over $1,500 toward the cause, and the cake auction brought in over $200.
In addition to raising funds for the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life is an opportunity to honor community members who have won their own fight against cancer. This year, 150 survivors registered throughout the weekend.
Elmer Denlinger, a survivor of 10 years, attended the event to help raise money through the Elks Lodge. For him, the weekend is important because it offers the community a chance to fund and support cancer research.
"We definitely need money for this purpose," he said.
For Lori Fisher, Relay means spending time with community members, her friends and other survivors.
"It's a great celebration and it gives survivors a sense of family," she said.
For the first and only time, this year's event also hosted Cancer Prevention Study 3. Rickert said 128 participants registered and gave a small blood sample. If those participants are ever diagnosed with cancer, the sample will be pulled and examined, which will help researchers identify the lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that cause cancer.
"We only do (the study) at relays that are very successful," said Jenn Schweighauser, a state health initiatives representative for the American Cancer Society.
The study gives participants a chance to see their Relay dollars at work, she added.
Throughout the weekend, participants also enjoyed several bands and a variety of activities while they walked the track. On Saturday evening, white luminarias illuminated the track in memory of loved ones lost to cancer and in honor of those battling the disease.
"This community has always been very generous with their time and money," said Debbie Himes, CPS3 chairperson, about the weekend.
This year was no exception, as community members gathered to "Celebrate More Birthdays" and rally support for a cancer-free future.
For more information about Relay For Life or the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org.