Birthdays are always special, but even more so for cancer survivors.
Rainy skies dampened the Johnson Williams Middle School athletic track in Berryville on Saturday, but did not dampen the spirits of the the participants in this year’s Relay for Life fundraiser. Cancer survivors and supporters donned ponchos and lifted umbrellas to commence the first lap of a 15-hour outdoor “relay-for-life” gala celebrating those who have overcome cancer and remembering those who did not. Relay for Life is an international movement to end cancer. Local efforts join with events around the globe in a worldwide effort to end cancer.
“We have a fabulous goal of raising $72,000 and as of right now we are at about $63,000,” said Jenny Kronfeld, this year’s co-chair for Clarke County’s Relay for Life event. “We’ll have people walking on the track for the next 15 hours and finish up tomorrow morning around 7 a.m.” Kronfeld said that everyone at the event shares the vision of finding a cure for cancer. Kronfeld, a kindergarten instructional assistant at Powhatan School, is a five year survivor of breast cancer and has a sister who is a 15-year survivor.
“I don’t want to see any of my kindergartners ever have to suffer from such a terrible disease. Together I know that we can beat it,” Kronfeld said.
Kronfeld said that while 215 people had registered to participate in the event, including 40 – 50 cancers survivors, she expected that another 35 – 40 people would attend in spite of the rain. “It wouldn’t be Relay for Life without rain,” Kronfeld said. “It always seems like it rains on this event but it never slows us down.”
Nine fundraising teams offered food, clothing, raffles, and other enticements for sale from tents and awnings pitched on the in-field of the JWMS athletic track, while volunteers walked and jogged around the track. Events throughout the night will follow an international program theme including a luminaria ceremony accompanied by the Winchester Bagpipes, Irish jigs, a meatball roll, “Walk like an Egyptian,” and a Shyamsunder Indian dance demo.
Several members of the “Stepping Stones” fundraising team were found gathered at a table under a lawn tent preparing for their Longaberger basket raffle later in the evening. Team Captain Bonnie Feltner said that her group had raised nearly $3,500 selling luminary bags for use at the ceremony later in the evening. Team member Eleanor Lloyd said the Stepping Stones have raised over $15,000 through yard sales, bake sales, and gathering donations. “We make progress one step at a time,” Lloyd said with pride.
The motto for this year’s fundraiser, “Imagine a world with more birthdays,” could be seen on Kronfeld’s tee-shirt as she welcomed the crowd at the opening ceremony. Light rain fell as the Beatles’ “It’s Your Birthday” blasted from speakers covered by blue rain tarps. “By celebrating birthdays we’re showing that we will fight the fight until the battle is won,” Kronfeld told the crowd. “Celebrate even the smallest victories and don’t forget those who have lost the battle. And always, always fight back!”