June 15, 2011 - Ortonville- The numbers are compiled: Thirty-six teams. Ninety-five survivors. More than 500 participants total, too many visitors to count and $78,144 raised in the battle against cancer.
|A couple walks together during the luminaria lap at the Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville on June 11. Luminarias lined the track in honor and memory of loved ones who have fought cancer. Photos by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)|
But the numbers tell only a small portion of the story of the fourth annual Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville. The 24-hour event, which took place from 10 a.m. June 11 to 10 a.m.-June 12, was more than just the American's Cancer Society's signature fundraising event. It was, as it bills itself, a time to celebrate, remember, and fight back.
Joy and sorrow were evident as smiles shone and tears flowed at the track and football field near Harvey Swanson Elementary on Varsity Drive where the Relay was held.
Ginny Livingstone, a Novi resident, was admitting children to a bounce house at the event. This was her fourth year participating as a member of the "Dream Team." Livingstone's sister, Ortonville resident Cyndi Livingstone, is a breast cancer survivor.
"I do this in honor of my sister," said Ginny, who also walked laps and sold T-shirts at the Relay. "It means a ton to support my sister. We are showing we care and love her."
Keri Leslie of Ortonville was at the event as a member of the "Passed, Present, Future" team.
Leslie's mother died of breast cancer in 2001 at the age of 51. She also lost her grandparents to cancer.
"There are too many reasons for us to be out here," she said. One of those reasons was standing next to her. Leslie's brother-in-law, Dave Peplinski, also a member of the team, is a cancer survivor.
Peplinski was diagnosed April 23, 2004 with a gastrointestinal stromal tumor and within two hours of diagnosis, underwent surgery. The 46-year-old married father of two is now considered cancer-free.
"This is a wonderful feeling of hope for everyone," said Peplinski of the Relay for Life. "You share with everyone a common goal."
April Ferree lit a luminary at the Relay with her cousin, Kori Galpin. The luminary was in honor of their grandmother, Andrea Ferree, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
"We are at Relay to show our support because we have a lot of family members with cancer and who have fought it and we just want to do our part."
For anyone else wanting to do their part, there is still time. Raena Kalfayan, Relay event chair, said donations will continue to be accepted to count for this year's Relay total until Aug. 31.
"We are only $7,000 away from our goal of $85,000 and I am confident we will make it happen!" she said.
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Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville