Clarion County Relay for Life raises more than $41,000

Beverly Strauser receives her survivor medal prior to the survivor lap at the Clarion County Relay for Life. (Photo by Natasha Brenneman)

The Clarion County Relay for Life raised more than $41,000 at the event held Saturday.

The event made a last minute change of venue because of the threat of severe weather.

“We are so lucky to have such a caring community,” said Nikki Carey, community manager for the Relay. “We staffed the indoor event in an hour. I can’t thank everyone enough for helping make this possible,” Carey added.

The fund-raising goal of $24,600 was exceeded before the event began.

The efforts of the 17 teams registered before the event helped to raise almost $35,000 before Saturday.

“We have raised $34,800 so far,” Carey said. “Now we can celebrate, fight back and enjoy the day Saturday.”

The Relay included all the activities originally planned for the outdoor event with the exception of the obstacle course.

In addition to walking on the recreation center track there was also food, music and games available for those in attendance.

During the survivor’s dinner music was played by local musicians, stories of strength were told and a sense of was community had.

More than 47 survivors enjoyed a free dinner before the survivor’s lap and luminaria ceremony.

We had 17 teams before Saturday, with more than 400 participants at the event.

Individuals not part of a team were also at the event.

All the teams worked to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Some do this through financial sponsors who make donations based on the number of laps or miles team members walk. Other teams work all year to raise money through various fund-raisers.

“It’s the little things that are making a huge difference, and all of our amazing teams are proving that,” Carey said.

Many teams, who had pop-up tents set up, were selling raffle tickets and chance.

The event featured a survivor’s lap in which people who have survived cancer were given the opportunity to take a lap around the track in celebration and in honor of their battle.

Before the lap each survivor’s name was called and they were given a medal.

Caregivers also were honored with a lap of their own, Carey said.

There was a luminary ceremony to honor those who have been diagnosed or have lost their battle with cancer.

A memorial lap was walked in silence to remember all those who have lost their battle with cancer.

Grief share support groups were on site for those who have lost loved ones. A photo booth was also available with souvenir photo strips available at no cost.

“The event makes for a great day with a great sense of community,” Carey said.

“Sadly, cancer affects all types of people. There’s no social or economic discrimination, so we’d love to have all types of people at the event,” Carey said.

Support for survivors was evident everywhere. Most teams wore matching T-shirts.

One survivor took a special interest in one team’s shirts. She approached a member to ask about buying a shirt and the team member decided that was not a good idea.

Instead, Ed Williams gave the stranger the shirt off his back.

Williams said, “When I saw she was a survivor, I really wanted to give it to her.”

He laughed as he said, “If I can make her day a little better it’s worth the drive home with no shirt.”

Cynda Kunselman, a breast cancer survivor of one year, received the unexpected gift.

“It’s wonderful to be part of a community like this,” Kunselman said.

She added she was thrilled to be an honorary member of Williams’ team.

Carey believed the event was a major success.

“Everyone in this room is proof that Clarion County comes together to support cancer survivors as well as honor those who are no longer with us,” Carey said. “Everyone has truly shown just how much they care this weekend.”