The 2015 Fulton County Relay for Life was celebrated on June 5 and 6 at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in Wauseon.
Wait a minute, you may ask. The Relay for Life? When did it become a celebration? The answer is simple…the Relay has always been a celebration.
The annual fundraising event of the American Cancer Society is a manifold celebration in the ongoing war against the monster known as cancer. It celebrates breakthroughs in research. It celebrates those who have survived the monster, and it celebrates those who are currently locked in battle against it. It celebrates the love of the caregivers who support those who have been touched by the disease, and it celebrates the memories of those who have sadly fallen in the battle. Above all, the Relay for Life is a celebration of hope, of family, of love…of life. Are these all not qualities to be celebrated with every ounce of energy that can be put forward?
All year long, teams composed of family members, corporate entities, and friends raise funds for this special event. It all comes together prior to the 6:00 p.m. start of the event with funds turned into the Relay bank, operated by the Farmers and Merchants State Bank. That amount was over $40,000…and it was just the start. There was still 18 hours of the event to come. With the singing of the National Anthem by Haley Birtcher of Team Wauseon Machine, the 2015 Fulton County Relay for Life was underway.
The first event was one of celebration as the survivors, all clad in official purple tee shirts, assembled in front of the stage on the south end of the midway, each with a balloon in hand. In unison, they released their balloons which ascended over the stage, then after being caught up by the cool northerly wind, drifted slowly away to the south as they ascended into the sky. As the balloons drifted out of sight, the track cleared for the survivors. With 2015 Honorary Chair Bev Figgins of Fayette and 2015 Junior Honorary Chair Brent Jutze of Wauseon in the lead, the Survivors Lap was the first lap of hundreds to be taken during the event. Once the survivors completed their official duties to open the celebration, they filed inside the grandstand area and assembled on the western track, forming a word that summed up the entire event…HOPE!
As cameras were snapping images of the survivors on the track, the Relay was kicking into high gear back on the midway. Fundraising events like the car show, the Chinese auction and the famous St. Caspar Book Sale, were joined by the live auction conducted by Joe Newlove Real Estate and Auction. Teams that had set up on the midway offered food, drinks, fun trinkets and more, all for a donation to the Relay. One stop could net a juicy cheeseburger, and a few feet away, the next stop would add a tall milkshake. Not that far away, the final piece of the perfect trifecta awaited with deep fried dill pickles from the tent of Fishing for a Cure. Okay, so what if you’re looking at a fat and calorie overload. The midway track awaited with the opportunity to walk off those calories…and there was still over 17 hours to walk.
One hour into the Relay, the contestants all lined up for the 2015 Miss Relay contest. Dolled-up dudes set aside their man cards for the opportunity to not only entertain, but to also generate more funds for the cause. With Becky Coopshaw and Don Hayati from Don’s Automotive Group hosting and emceeing the event, the only thing more profound than the entertainment was the newfound truth that in the battle against cancer, REAL men wear pink and pumps. By the end of the Miss Relay contest, the total in the bank had climbed to $69,652.06.
As the 10:00 hour rolled up, the lights around the midway were dimmed for the Luminaria Ceremonies. The only solemn part of the Relay, this ceremony honors those whose battles are ongoing, as well as the memories of those whose battles were lost in their fights against cancer. The only lights on the track were provided via the candle-lit luminaria, each one bearing the name of an honoree.
On through the night of June 5, and into the morning of June 6 the Relay carried on. Events like the water balloon toss, frozen turkey bowling, cornhole games and a scavenger hunt provided round-the-clock entertainment for the relayers, while continuing to add to the growing total for the American Cancer Society. As the totals were being added just prior to the noon ending of the event, the preliminary figure of $92,796.44 was another thing to celebrate at the Relay for Life.
The numbers were down from previous years, so is the economy though. The thing that continues in growth from year to year has no dollar quantification, however. No matter what anyone might say to the contrary, one cannot put a price tag on hope. Hope is priceless, but a down payment can be made via the process of celebration.
That is something that the Relay for Life had in surplus.
Timothy Kays can be reached at
© 2015 – 2016, Forrest Church. All rights reserved.