By MARK BELCHER
As if the sky itself knew, the weather held -- the survivors didn't deserve to be rained on during their victory lap.
Standing up to cancer
Despite a mostly poor day of weather, hundreds of dedicated people made it out to watch and participate in the 14th annual relay for life event at SUNY Fredonia State University.
The nation-wide charitable event, which began in 1985 with one man, raises millions every year to help find a cure for cancer. The Dunkirk event alone last year raised $110,000 roughly with around 1000 participants.
The goal is different this year, though, Cathy Gilvin, chairperson of the event's committee, said.
Photo by Mark Belcher
They are aiming for roughly $101,000. It would be the second year to raise over $100,000, but the weather holds expectations back.
She said they are financially ahead of schedule now, as teams brought in a record-setting $78,000 from before-event fundraising. The rest should come in through festivities at the day-long event.
"To come in this morning and hear the number $78,000," Gilvin, the chair of three years, said. "It is a testimony to our participants here. I think we can hit a record high today."
Not all records would be broken though. They only registered 52 teams, down seven from last year. Mike Porpiglia, community executive for the American Cancer Society, said it is most likely because they removed the number cap on teams, so many merged.
"It doesn't concern me much," he said. "We are ahead of where we were last year, and in good shape."
Porpiglia said anything can happen today, but what really impresses him is the incredible turnout, rain or shine, of not only participants, but survivors.
"I'm always in awe of the sea of purple during the survivor's lap," he said. "We are fortunate to have more people surviving cancer and having more birthdays because of the amazing work by this community."
Over 150 survivors followed their honorary chair Jill Schwertfeger in a march, opening the Saturday event.
Schwertfeger, 32, offered inspirational words in a speech just before the opening lap.
"I have no words to describe how fortunate I am," she said. "We can never let this horrible monster win."
She just this November came down with thyroid cancer. Although she had a successful surgery, and her radiation treatment is completed, she will not know for several months if the cancer which infected the cells around her neck skin are gone.
"I have to thank my children and this community, they keep my spirits up." she said.
Just after the survivors made their opening lap, the caretakers joined in for a lap with them.
Porpiglia described the caretakers as anybody who provides emotional or physical support for those who helped anybody fighting cancer.
"We put a little more stress on caretakers this year," he said. " They go through a lot too, and it is important to thank them for all they do."
The event continued through the day and night, a celebration of hope, determination and memory. They in total raised XXX (A NUMBER WHICH I WILL RECEIVE AT 10:30 TONIGHT).
"Today some walk for those lost, some walk for those in the middle of their fight and some walk for having beaten cancer." Schwertfeger said. "But we are all walking for a cure."