Jasper County residents at H.A. Lynn Stadium showcased various emotions during the Relay For Life event held there Friday evening. Some people’s faces were filled with sorrow, while others were filled with cream pie filling from the pie-to-the-face contest.
Despite attendance being lower than previous years, as of press time, RFL raised $69,000, $3,000 more than last year. While bodies may have been missing, Jasper County residents’ generosity wasn’t.
“Everybody out here is who makes the relay a success,” RFL co-chair Roxann Wormley said. “They are what make this go.”
State Rep. Dan Kelley served as the master of ceremonies. He also was doing his best Dick Clark impression as he spun classic soul, rock, country and even disco era hits as the events DJ.
“I’ve been involved with Relay For Life for the past six or seven years,” Kelley said. “I got involved in Relay For Life in memory of my grandma, Lois Maddy. She struggled with cancer for many years and I know about all of the difficulties that she went through and she had access to good medical care.”
“Part of what Relay For Life is about is providing medical care for cancer patients in need,” Kelley continued. “Cancer is bad enough, but for those who can’t afford care or lack access to it, it’s that much harder.”
Kelley went on to say that much of the funding stays local and helps out local organizations and medical facilities, including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, which Kelley said is one of the leading groups in cancer research.
Teams had been raising money for months and several teams set up specialty booths in the stadium concourses to continue their fundraising.
Snow cones, knick-knacks, raffles, quilts, silent auctions, and glow sticks were just a few of the wares being sold.
One team, “Jools and the Gang,” held an on-site bake sale and had one earlier in the day in front of Medicap Pharmacy. Jools and the Gang were one of 27 teams that participated this year. Team member Chrissy Brewer spoke on the group’s behalf.
“(We are) Jools and the Gang, because the theme is ‘celebrate’ and Kool and the Gang sings the ‘Celebrate’ song,” Brewer said. “This is our third year, but Julie’s (Jools) dad died of cancer two and half years ago. She initiated it and we all have people that have been affected by it, and they’re on the back of our shirts. It’s who we are walking for.”
T-shirts played an important part at the event. Most teams had their own signature shirt and “Fight like a girl” and other anti-cancer shirts were heavily present as well. Another interesting aspect was that RFL committee members wore orange shirts and all survivors wore purple shirts with the amount of time they had been cancer free on them.
One orange shirt belonged to Chelsea Swarts, who was in charge of team recruitment.
“This is my third year being on the committee,” Swarts said. “My father was diagnosed and lost his battle with lung cancer, and since then my mother has been diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s definitely hard to go through it once and it’s just as hard the second time.”
Swarts’ mother was present at RFL with her oxygen tank and head scarf, but most importantly she had on the “I’m a survivor” sticker.
While the sun was still out, there were activities ranging from flag football to dunk tanks taking place and children running around eating sweets. The mood changed when the sun went down, however, and the luminarias that were decorated with dedications to the fallen were lit.
Twelve-year-old Lance Dykstra and 13-year-old Tyler Robinson were helping light them and shared why they were there.
“My mom has a relay team,” Dykstra said. “My grandma Pat had breast cancer, but she survived.”
“My grandma,” Robinson said. “My grandma is still alive, but a lot of family members have died. I’ve had a whole lot of family members with cancer.”
While the luminarias were lighting up the track, “Ron the Bagpiper, played several selections and the names of those who survived and those who had fallen were read over the PA.
RFL co-chair Debby Pence put the events of the evening into perspective.
“I thought we had a great turnout,” Pence said. “It was smaller than past years, but there were 27 teams with great fundraising, and a lot of excitement and a lot of on-site fundraising, which was fun for the whole family. For this year, with the amount of teams, I am pleased. God is good, and we had a very successful night to help find a cure to cancer.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.