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Posted: 05/21/14



HONORING LOVED ONES

Above, students from Armada High School called themselves the "Team Armada Pals" and won the Best Team Spirit award. The team members all know someone who died of cancer or was diagnosed with cancer. At left, members of the military lead the first lap of the relay known as the Survivor Lap.

(Observer photos by Debi Martone)

Relay for Life remembers
those lost to cancer

by DEBI MARTONE
Observer Special Writer
      A very resolute mom stood on the stage and led the Romeo Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony on May 17 as she spoke about losing her young daughter just two months ago.
       Romeo resident and event co-chairwoman Nikki Earl kept her composure and showed grace under pressure as she talked about the day her daughter, Summer, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor 20 days before her eighth birthday. She spoke about Summer's prognosis and the moment when she realized time wasn't on their side.
       "For 17 months the battle was real. So we began to live, we began to really live," Earl said.
       From numerous parties to a trip to Disney World and celebrating two Christmases in one year, Earl was determined her daughter wouldn't suffer from the disease that ultimately took her life 17 months after her diagnosis.
       "On March 10 (2014), my baby lost her battle," Earl said.
       Earl fought back tears so she could get the message across that she was nowhere near being done with cancer.
       "I am ready to finish this fight," she said.
       Although the Luminaria Ceremony is just one of the many ceremonies that took place during the 24-hour event, it was the most personal. The fundraising, the laughter, the upbeat music and games that took place during the chilly Saturday afternoon and evening were turned down with the lights of the stadium. The event became no longer about the determination to eradicate cancer, but turned to remembering those who have been affected by it.
       "Hundreds of luminarias line our track. Each bag, each candle, represents a person with a name and a story," Earl said. "We fight back tonight against this horrible disease for them."
       The crowd of cancer survivors, family members, friends and caregivers who listened to Earl walked a Remembrance Lap around the track, led by a bagpiper who played Amazing Grace. Some walked hand-in-hand while they quietly paid tribute to those they lost. The words "hope" and "cure" lit up the nighttime sky in the Barnabo Field bleachers until the lights were turned on again and the teams prepared for the overnight festivities.
       Event co-chairwoman Shannon Emerick said despite the cold weather, teammates and other participants walked the track all day and night. The 42 teams who had set up their TV show themed booths earlier that day took part in laps and other activities during the overnight hours, which helped keep everyone's spirits up as they braved the unseasonably low temperatures.
       "I think overall participation was down because of the weather," said Emerick, who said the Relay raised around $102,000, which was about $30,000 under the goal.
       Considering the bad weather, the money raised is an impressive amount for a Relay for Life, which is held in 5,000 communities in 20 countries. Monies raised from events such as the Relay allows the American Cancer Society to provide funding for research and other programs that benefit cancer patients.
       "We had a great set-up, a great DJ and a lot of entertainment," Emerick said. "But I think it was just too cold for a lot of people to come and see all that we had going on."
      


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Retrieved 9/17/2014 at 11:42:24 PM.
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