June 19, 2013 - Ortonville- Party on.
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The area's largest party, the 2013 Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville, was supposed to last 24 hours, from June 15-16. But stormy weather that rolled through in the early morning hours of June 16 interrupted the event that raises funds for cancer research.
The Relay will now wrap-up at 6 p.m., Monday, June 24 at the Brandon Township Library, 304 South St.
"We have extended the party," said Mary Woods, event vice-chair.
Around midnight during the Relay, organizers were looking at weather radar and seeing storms coming across the state, advised revelers on the track and field at 209 Varsity Drive to pack up their tents.
"It started looking worse, so as the better part of valor, they all went home," said Woods, who stayed with three others as she said it poured rain from about 2:30 a.m.-4 a.m. "You're supposed to relay in every condition, but a few weeks ago we had that tornado up the road in Goodrich."
The Relay had begun at 10 a.m. June 15 and was successful for several hours before the weather turned.
"We were having a really good time," noted Woods.
Indeed, a few dozen teams and hundreds of people turned out to walk the track in themed laps, partake in bellydance demonstrations, play games, and most importantly, celebrate, remember, and fight back against cancer.
Nathan Cremeans, 14 and a Goodrich High School sophomore, shared that he was at the Relay because his grandmother, Ann Cremeans, died two years ago from the disease.
"I want to support all those out there who have cancer," he said as he walked the track around noon for Team Hunting Down Cancer. "I just think my Grandma would be really happy to know I'm doing this for her. I like seeing all the people who come out to fight cancer."
Charlene Helmle was at the event even as she wages her own personal battle against cancer. She has fought the disease since 2008 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2012, she suffered a recurrence of breast cancer, as well as ovarian cancer.
"This is my third relay," said the former Ortonville resident and pet groomer. "I think it's wonderful for research on all cancers."
She was joined by family and friends at the event, including Jodi Witherspoon, who went through breast cancer treatment with Helmle in 2008.
"It's all about the support," said Witherspoon as she and Helmle shared smiles.
A short time later, the pair who described themselves as "Laurel and Hardy" during their treatment, walked together along with a few dozen others in the "Survivor Lap" at Relay.
That lap was preceded by a speech from another survivor—Lorena Fantini Williams, who introduced herself as Glen's wife, a mom, substitute teacher at Brandon Schools, and cancer survivor.
"The hardest part is the hopelessness we feel that this horrible disease brings to family and friends," said Williams, who lost her brother Carlos to pancreatic cancer four years ago and then 21 months later was diagnosed herself with breast cancer.
"The doctor found a lump," she recalled. "No big deal, I'd had other lumps. But it was a big deal. This thing is not going to win. There is physical pain, but the emotional pain we feel stays, it lingers when you see the faces of loved ones and how much they suffer."
"There are not enough words to thank God for me being here today to share with you," she continued. "This disease brings the best out of everybody and my friends came to help me. I appreciate the love and support. The love when going through cancer is the best thing you can receive. I love this community and am very proud to say I live in Ortonville, Michigan."
Woods is looking forward to seeing Relayers at the wrap-up party June 24. So far, Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville has raised $55,000 in the fight against cancer and donations will be accepted through the end of August toward the goal of $75,000.
"We're gonna keep plugging on to next year," she said. "I want to thank everybody for participating."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville