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Kim Petit ignites a floating luminary at Relay for Life in Ortonville on Saturday. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
June 20, 2012 - Ortonville- Pat Guziak was sitting at her campsite at about 3 a.m. at the Relay for Life in Westland five years ago when she saw a woman in distress at the 24-hour walk to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Guziak walked up and asked her if she wanted to talk, and soon learned the woman, Rhonda Temple, was crying because her 6-year-old daughter, Alyssa, had died just a few months before from leukemia.

The women became great friends, one of many friends Guziak has made in 12 years of doing Relay for Life.

"To me, that is what Relay is about," she said. "You see someone struggling and you walk up and ask, 'How can I help?'"

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Last weekend, Guziak participated in the fifth annual Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville, her first one in this community. Next to her was her son, Brendan Guziak, 14, team captain of BMS Fights Cancer.

"Relay means helping other people," he said. "I love to raise funds to help other peoplel have a better chance at living. It's an honor." The Guziaks soon took to the stage at the event held at the old football field at Varsity Drive, with Brendan urging the afternoon crowd to sign pledges to wear sunblock, sunglasses, and eat healthier to help prevent cancer, and Pat sharing how she volunteers to drive cancer patients to chemotherapy. She encouraged others to also become volunteers.

The weather was warm, but dry June 16-17 for the Relay and walkers did laps around the track while in the middle of the field, tents were set up and attendees danced and played volleyball and more.

"It just feels good to do something about fighting back against cancer," said Erica Kranson, a member of the Passed, Present and Future team and whose grandfathers have both survived cancer.

Theresa Hurley, ACS representative, said more than 100 cancer survivors, "faces of hope," were present to kick off the Relay in the morning with the survivor lap. Many returned in the evening as luminarias were lit for a special remembrance lap.

While she noted it is difficult to track attendance, $68,213 was raised to fight cancer as a result of the event as of Wednesday, and fundraising will continue for this Relay through Aug. 31 in an effort to reach the goal of $86,010.

A wrap-up party is planned for 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., June 26, at Lake Louise Church of the Nazarene, 2300 S. Ortonville Road, at which Relay participants are invited to share their favorite moments and give input and suggestions for next year. Anyone interested in joining Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville next year is also welcome to attend.

"This relay had a lot of positive energy, a really nice community feel," said Hurley. "It was nice to see a lot of youth taking an active interest in the fight and all the comraderie. There were people out there doing zumba at 1:30 a.m., it was awesome. There was a lot of energy."

For more information on Relay for Life or the wrap-up party, call Theresa at 248-663-3427.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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