Assistant Managing Editor
Sitting surrounded by family taking in all of the activities surrounding her at the Greater Auglaize County Relay for Life, a 67-year-old breast cancer survivor reflected on her life.
Having beaten cancer 17 years ago, there isn’t a day Carol Storer, of New Knoxville, takes for granted and she doesn’t miss a year of the event, now in its 16th year and held at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds this past Friday and Saturday.
Storer said the survivors’ lap is especially meaningful.
“I just want to cry,” Storer said. “It gets you in the heart.”
This year, her 14-year-old granddaughter, Maddie Jaros, of St. Marys, joined her on that lap.
Jaros wasn’t even born yet when her grandmother was battling cancer, but as close as they are now, it brings her to tears thinking about what life may have been like without her.
“It means a lot to get to celebrate her and all the other people just like her who survived cancer, to recognize what a great accomplishment it is,” Jaros said.
Storer’s sister, Janet Adams, of Wapakoneta, purchases luminaries in honor of her and other friends and family members, including one in memory of her late husband, whom she lost to cancer.
“To see them all lit with the lights out, it’s beautiful,” Adams said.
“It’s great that they do something like this,” she said, looking at the Relay for Life activities going on around her.
Wearing T-shirts in honor of and in memory of loved ones and with slogans like “Cancer Sucks,” approximately 170 team members worked together to help raise money for the event, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
By Saturday afternoon, Kim Klingler, who served as public relations chair, said they had raised at least $37,000, and they were still counting money, which was still coming in.
Organizers have until the end of August to meet their fundraising goal of $48,000, and Klingler expected them to do it.
She said 98 percent of money raised stays in the county to assist patients here and more than 100 Auglaize County residents received help through the American Cancer Society’s many programs in 2012, local representative Sarah Burke said at the event.
Burke said she felt many more people could be helped locally, but because of privacy laws, those who could use the assistance need to contact the Cancer Society.
While Klingler has participated as part of TSC’s Relay for Life team for 15 years, it wasn’t until a few years ago when the meaning of the event really hit home.
At the end of August she celebrates her four-year anniversary of being a cancer survivor.
“The first 11 years I was on Relay it was about it being a good civic thing to do and fun,” Klingler said. “I took my health and Relay for granted. When I got cancer, I realized it does happen to everyone and I will remain committed to Relay for the rest of my life.
“I got cancer when I was 39 and I want to see a lot more years and a lot more Relays,” she said.
Since her diagnosis, Klingler is more aware of her health, getting annual MRIs and bloodwork every six months.
“It’s always on my mind,” Klingler said.
Each year after Relay is over, organizers begin meeting within a month or two to begin making plans for the following year’s event. While there are always new and fun activities for all ages — this year including the return of the butterfly release, different lap themes, cupcake and cookie decorating, movie trivia and a celebrity look-alike contest, those attending never forget why they are there.
“The most important thing is recognizing the survivors and remembering those who lost their lives,” Klingler said. “Relay brings the community together. So many people are affected by cancer.”
She said national statistics show that one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
“Cancer numbers are going down,” Klingler said. “There are more survivors than ever before. We are making a difference and having fun doing it.”
She said they always are in need of more volunteers to help with planning and more teams to participate in fundraising.
“It’s in my blood now,” Klingler said of her own volunteerism with the event.
After having breast cancer, Klingler said she bleeds pink and wants to do as much as she can to help others. She said everyone else can do the same, it doesn’t take any certain skills, just a passion for the cause.
“I want to obliterate cancer,” Klingler said. “I am committed to one day knowing that someone will hear, ‘You have cancer. We have a cure.’ ”
She said anyone can help with the cause, it just takes a little bit from each person and every little bit helps.
“You never know when cancer will hit home,” Klingler said.
She said she heard every reason why people weren’t participating in Relay, they were tired, burnt out or didn’t have time.
“Cancer doesn’t take a day off and we won’t either.”