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Emotional, encouraging, awesome night in the Parkland

They came together to raise tents, raise money and raise hope for a cure for cancer.

For the 10th year, St. Francois County hosted the Relay For Life Friday-Saturday at Mineral Area College to benefit the American Cancer Society. When it was done, 60 teams had raised $175,447.33, the most ever.

&#8220I am never surprised by what this county does,” said Cristina Howard, Cancer Society representative. &#8220Every year, it keeps getting better and better.”

&#8220I am overwhelmed with this amount!” said a tired and tearful Carolyn Tyler, Chairman of the 2006 Relay. She announced the tally to teams at about 6 a.m. Saturday telling them, &#8220It’s all thanks to you and all your hard work.”

Teams like &#8220HoneyPaw” had worked for months and raised $1,500 to honor Flo Jaster, whom her family calls &#8220Honey,” and her late husband, Don, whom they called &#8220Paw.”

&#8220Two little girls came over to our tent tonight at different times and one of them gave us a check for $150 and then the other one gave us $200,” said Lisa Roberts, team captain. &#8220We don’t know why they chose us, but that put us over our goal. We called Honey to tell her!”

Cancer survivor Donna McMullan bought a bear at the Team Hollywood campsite and proclaimed this her &#8220most special relay.”

&#8220I became a five-year survivor of breast cancer on April 30, 2006,” she explained. &#8220I’ve come to every relay since I was diagnosed. This is just so encouraging.”

About 135 survivors found inspiration as they introduced themselves to the hundreds of people in the crowd during opening ceremonies.

There were survivors like Phyllis Rameriz who triumphantly said, &#8220I had by last treatment in June!” and the crowd cheered.

Jamie Montgomery, a four-year colon cancer survivor introduced little Lexi Smith who she held in her arms. She was diagnosed with lung cancer four years ago.

Diane McKinley is a six-year survivor of breast cancer and stood in the line of survivors wearing purple shirts with her 10-year-old daughter, Alexis. The little girl is still in treatment for the lymphoma she was diagnosed with two years ago.

&#8220It was unreal when they told me she had it,” said Diane. &#8220It doesn’t seem like it should be happening to her.”

Dr. G. Richard Reney broke out into a broad grin when he introduced himself as a &#82202-day survivor” since doctors had just told him the cancer in his throat is gone.

Honorary Survivor Katie Conway Dickerson was brought to tears as she told the crowd about her breast cancer battle that began a year ago. She found out just hours before the Relay that tests show there are no cancer cells in her body anymore.

&#8220Today is my first day of remission!” she said tearfully to thunderous applause.

Organizers of this 10th Relay presented an award to the organizer of the first. Breast Cancer Survivor Norma Clauser was honored for her vision in believing St. Francois County could host a Relay.

In welcoming the crowd to the campus, Interim MAC President Dr. Steven Kurtz said, &#8220I lost both my parents to cancer, so this is a special event for me.”

Mike McGee and Tim Huskey sang a song written by Huskey’s sister, Carla Rutledge, who just had her last breast cancer treatment a week before.

&#8220I pray to the Lord for strength to survive, like manna sent from heaven, the Lord takes care of me,” they sang.

Charlie Berry received the Mike Dealy Award for his support of the Relay over the years when he played music to keep the walkers walking.

Cancer survivors carefully lined up behind a banner and walked under an arch of purple and white balloons to take the first lap around the track set up for the event.

They were applauded by teams who had set up tents around the track like Clinicians for a Cure in Candyland. Healthcare Management’s theme was &#8220Light The Way to a Cure.” Bankstar of the Leadbelt had &#8220Fishin’ for a Cure” and AmHeart Hospice brought out Uncle Sam with the theme, &#8220Enlist in the Flight for a Cure.” Throughout the night, as luminaria flickered bearing the names of those who have battled cancer, members of the teams took turns walking the track. Casaundra Johnson made a lap or two on the shoulders of Paul Fritch from the MAC team.

Games kept walkers going all night long like the egg toss, water balloon toss, pie-eating contest and hula hoop competition.

At 3:40 a.m., Tara Hardy hosted a marshmallow-eating contest. The winner stuffed 13 fluffy, white sweet treats into his mouth.

Central High School’s team performed the &#8220Cotton Eyed Joe” on stage as G and L Karaoke played.

Across from the stage, Kathy Grogan-Bleckler of the New Beginnings Team was handing out Tootsie Rolls for energy for the weary walkers.

It was the first year for St. Joseph Catholic School’s &#8220Kids Against Cancer” team.

&#8220This has been so inspirational,” said Angie Scism, mom and team member.

&#8220One of the survivors walking by just looked at me and said, ‘thank you’ and I just lost it,” said Annette Holloway, another member.

At Accent Marketing’s tent where the theme was, &#8220Answering the Call For A Cure,” Janet Moll noted, &#8220I was at the first relay and we were such a small group. Then I didn’t come for a few years and since I’ve come back, I have just been amazed by how it has really grown.”

The team from First Free Will Baptist Church, Park Hills, vowed to be back next year.

&#8220We sold red crosses that glowed in the dark, but we only brought 50 because we didn’t know how they’d sell,” said Chuck Lotz, team captain. &#8220We sold out fast, so we know to bring more next year.”

Cool temperatures in the 70s made the Relay weather perfect, but organizers say it was the spirit of the event that made it so successful.

&#8220It’s the enthusiasm the people here bring to the Relay that makes it stand out,” said Howard. &#8220It’s just incredible.”

Relays For Life are held throughout the country to raise money to fund cancer society services and research for a cure.

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