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Participants face cancer head on

Desiree Stitzer, of Holiday Hair salon, cuts a 10-inch braid from Ann Weikert to be donated to Pantene hair donations on the grand stand of the Grange fairgrounds during the Happy Valley Relay for Life on Saturday.
Desiree Stitzer, of Holiday Hair salon, cuts a 10-inch braid from Ann Weikert to be donated to Pantene hair donations on the grand stand of the Grange fairgrounds during the Happy Valley Relay for Life on Saturday. nthomas@centredaily.com

When Judy Swarmer’s daughter-in-law was diagnosed with cancer in August, she said she knew she wanted to do something more to help in the fight against the disease.

After all, she said, “cancer’s something that impacts everyone.”

Less than a year later, her daughter-in-law, Jennifer Moyer, is in remission, and among four other family and friends on Swarmer’s Relay For Life team, “Stay Strong,” who are cancer free.

It was their first year participating in the annual Relay For Life of Happy Valley at the Grange fairgrounds on Saturday.

“We’re not sure what we’re doing yet, but we know we got to do something,” Swarmer said with a laugh.

Swarmer, the team’s captain, didn’t set a fundraising goal, but participated in yearlong fundraising efforts to help raise money for the organization whose proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

“We did a hoagie sale and some other things, but we’re here for support, and learn from others and come back even stronger next year,” Swarmer said. “It’s something I’m proud of, and I love that we have members of our team who beat cancer.”

Those other members included Jen Walters, Perry Hagenbuch and Missy Hagenbuch, who has been cancer free for 47 years.

Hagenbuch said she was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor at age 3.

Relay For Life of Happy Valley was founded in 2004, event co-chairwoman Melanie Moore said.

And since its inception, is has raised more than $2 million.

This year, the goal was to reach at least $181,000.

“It’s a goal we set that’s a little less than last year, but something we think we can hopefully hit,” Relay’s Community Manager Jen Leydig said.

As of Friday night, the event reached about $150,000, Leydig said.

This year, 29 teams and more than 400 participants took part in the 24-hour challenge.

“People are walking all day and night,” Leydig said. “It’s kind of like a message that cancer never sleeps.”

Entertainment lead Karen Metzger said she was in charge this year of “keeping it fun.”

With a “Game On” cancer event theme, she organized a set of walks that incorporated sports with the activities.

“They’re called ‘wacky laps,’ ” Metzger said. “There’s all kind of laps that aren’t routine.”

It included a series of scavenger hunts that allowed the walkers to get signatures of cancer survivors, committee members and team captains.

“It’s just a way of making it different and keeping it fun,” Metzger said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

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