Celebrating, remembering and fighting back

The white paper bags lining the track of the Greater Auglaize County Relay for Life this weekend each represented a life.

Some were in honor of cancer survivors, while others were in memory of those who lost their battles with the disease. They recognized grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, parents, prom dates, and friends from all walks of life.

As longtime friends and former co-workers Susan Little and Evie Becker rounded laps they celebrated the life of Little, a breast cancer survivor, and remembered Becker’s husband, Danny Eaton, who lived less than two months after his diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

“We’re here to support each other,” Becker said.

Little, who had recently completed her treatments when Eaton was diagnosed, helped her friend take care of him.

“We hope to help find a cure,” Little said as both stressed the importance of early diagnosis.

Becker, who said she still feels her husband’s presence, sees Relay as a celebration of life. As a nurse she also remembers giving chemotherapy to patients, such as Stanley Morden, and the loss of their great souls.

“I’m a survivor for four and a half years,” Little said. “It is exhilarating to still be alive, to wake up every day and still get a chance.”

Luanne Kuck, a cancer survivor of 15 years from New Knoxville, comes out every year with her friend, Judy Kuck, and their husbands, who helped her when she was sick.

“I’ve come to relay every since the first one,” Luanne Kuck said. “I like coming out and seeing all the survivors to help raise money for a good cause and seeing the lighting of the luminaries.”

A group of Wapakoneta High School students who belong to the flag corps walked and danced their way around the track as they remembered grandparents who fought cancer.

“Cancer is a heartbreaking thing and not easy on anyone,” Ashley Golden said. “Hopefully all the money raised and work done goes back to help those in need.”

Alexis Hoelscher said it’s great to see the whole community come together in such a way to fight cancer.

“Taking one step helps a lot,” Alexis said.

Ashlynn Cotrell, 6, and a member of a group of Daisies with a team at Relay this year, said they are “making a cure for cancer.”

“We are helping cancer be cured,” Ashlynn said of fundraisers held at the event and prior to it. “A Girl Scout’s job is about helping.”

Joanne Sidener, who helped form the young team, said it was something she always wanted to do after losing her mother to cancer and thought involving the girls would be a great chance for them to learn about helping others. A representative of the American Cancer Society came and talked to the 5- to 12-year-olds about what their work would mean.

For Connie Kantner, whose brother Chris Ewing passed away this year from cancer, her first experience participating in Relay for Life has been healing.

“It was one of the first things I thought of when I found out he had cancer and there wasn’t much we could do to help him,” Kantner said. “We wanted to fight the cause.”

Her team of family members and Ewing’s high school friends sold baked goods and beaded bracelets recognizing specific types of cancer at Relay. Kantner mapped out a schedule so someone was walking laps throughout the event, which extended from 6 p.m. Friday to noon Saturday.

“We’re trying to really get into it,” said Kantner, whose brother lived in Florida when he died within weeks of his diagnosis of colon cancer.

“It feels like one gynormous family,” she said. “People that come up are so friendly and they all are going or have went through what we have. It’s really touching. I’m glad we did it. We’ll definitely be back.”

Her sister Chris Terkelsen said she knows their brother would be tickled at what they’ve accomplished.

“He was real humble, but we know this would make him happy,” Terkelsen said. “I think he’s watching. I have to believe that.”