Celebrating life on a rainy day

news@enquirerherald.comApril 29, 2013 

— Many have already braved surgery and chemo, coupled with worries about the future. On Saturday, cancer survivors, their families and supporters braved rain and overcast skies — and they did it with joy.

The annual Western York County Relay for Life, a community fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society, attracted some 2,000 to 3,000 during a nearly 12-hour relay and celebration on the track at York Middle School.

“It’s survivors, it’s family, it’s something you can’t understand until you’ve been there,” said Amanda Wilkerson, who cochaired the event with Denise White for the third year. “It’s a great family to be a part of.”

Thirty to 35 teams from Western York County churches, schools, businesses and more walked around the track and hosted other fundraisers, aiming to raise about $140,000.

Wilkerson said they had generated more than $121,000 as of Monday morning. After the wrap up on May 20, when the final proceeds raised will be turned in, she said, they hope to get closer to the final goal.

A sprinkle turned into afternoon showers shortly after the relay began at 1 p.m. Saturday. But it didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of participants, who popped up their umbrellas and kept walking, or huddled under tents in the middle of the track with friends and family.

Wilkerson, 36, of Hickory Grove, is celebrating five years of being cancer free this spring. She was diagnosed with Hogdkins lymphoma in 2008 and had six months of chemotherapy.

“I have a huge passion for this,” said Wilkerson, who attended with her husband, Tommy, and three children, ages 16, 14 and 6. “We support a lot of charities, but this is my heart and soul.”

For cancer survivors, she said, “it’s a huge birthday party.”

Her oldest son, Thomas, who was just 11 when his mother was diagnosed, is beginning to appreciate what Relay means. “As I started going to more events, I started understanding more,” he said.

Among the survivors was Kathy Alexander 64, of York, who had breast cancer, and Floyd Childers, 82, of Hickory Grove, who had prostate cancer. Both were glad to be there.

“A lot can come out of having cancer,” said Alexander, who has been cancer free for four years and is able to encourage others in their fight. “It makes you want to go out and talk to more people.”

Childers, a York Intermediate School custodian who has been cancer free since surgery in 1999, said he has attended many Relay events. “I’m so proud to be here; I’m still alive and I’m still working.”

Wilkerson said the event had attracted as many as 4,000 people in the past for continuous live entertainment, but Saturday’s rain affected attendance. She said the event ended around midnight.

And Relay planners are already starting to look to next year, Wilkerson said. The 2014 event has been tentatively scheduled for the last Saturday in April from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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