Guthrie County Relay for Life inspires tears, memories and hope
Cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters gathered together wearing purple to support the American Cancer Society at the Guthrie County Relay for Life event at the Adair-Casey/Guthrie Center High School on Friday.
The event was moved indoors after chances of severe weather and humid temperatures were forecasted.
The one-night event featured a silent auction, dance performances from the Adair Dance Academy and Main Street Dance Studio, a free will donation dinner served by the Betty Smith family, a cake walk, a pie auction and a survivor and caregiver lap.
“Thank you for coming out to the Relay for Life in Guthrie County and joining the American Cancer Society to create a world free from the pain and suffering caused by cancer,” event co-leader Becky Peterson said in the event’s opening ceremony.
Two-time breast cancer survivor Christina Radke was this year’s guest speaker. Radke, a 35-year-old mother of two, was diagnosed with stage two triple negative breast cancer when she was just 30 years old. After months of treatment, Radke appeared to be cancer free. However, at a routine checkup it was discovered that a new cancer had developed in her other breast.
This August, Radke will celebrate being two years out from her final radiation treatment. In that time, she took a leap of faith and went to Naomi, Kenya with other cancer survivors and patients. There, Radke and others volunteered at a Kenyan hospital before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro together.
“The struggles I felt climbing the mountain were very similar to the struggles I felt fighting cancer, not knowing where the path was going to lead me one day to the next,” Radke said. “Experiencing illness and side effects from altitude and exhaustion were similar to surgeries and treatment.”
Radke closed her speech by urging audience members to live their lives to the fullest, embracing struggles and challenges.
Following Radke’s speech, survivors, caregivers and team members had their chance to take a stand against cancer by performing the traditional survivor and caregiver laps. Survivors and caregivers walked around the gym while audience members and teams crowded in the center of the gym floor to cheer them on as they passed.
This year, Guthrie County was home to 22 American Cancer Society teams. This is the most teams that Guthrie County has ever had. Each team has been working throughout the year to raise money to support the American Cancer Society’s mission of finding a cure for cancer. As of last Friday night, the teams have raised over $45,000 so far this year, and the fundraising is not over.
One Guthrie County team, Team Wichita, has raised more money than any other team in the state of Iowa, according to Peterson. So far this year, Team Wichita alone has raised $15,675. Since 2009, the team has raised a total of $75,447 to support the American Cancer Society.
“Without the teams, there would be no relay,” said Peterson. “We’d have no one to walk in here with us tonight, no one for our fundraiser to help support the American Cancer Society and no one helping to spread the word about the relay mission and the important work that the American Cancer Society does for survivors, caregivers and everyone.”
At the end of the night, survivors, caregivers and team members conducted the luminaria silent lap in honor of those who are still fighting cancer and those who have lost the battle with cancer. The luminaria lap featured over 110 luminaria bags, each one dedicated to a different individual who has cancer or who has passed away from cancer.
“Cancer is a worthy opponent to say the least, but it will never have what we have,” said Peterson. “We have an advantage over cancer because of the generosity of people like you. You have courage, hope, empathy, determination, and together, we can make the greatest impact to save lives, and that’s why we’re here today.”