Relay for Life ends early for first time in 15 years

Organizers still enthusiastic about money raised for ACS

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 12, 2013

 Participants make their first lap during the 2013 St. Clair Shores Relay for Life at Blossom Heath Park May 31.

Participants make their first lap during the 2013 St. Clair Shores Relay for Life at Blossom Heath Park May 31.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


It kicked off just after noon, windy, blustery but full of enthusiastic participants planning to spend 24 hours in Blossom Heath Park.

But the 2013 St. Clair Shores Relay for Life ended just a few hours later — a victim of Mother Nature and several strong storms threatening the area. Nevertheless, organizers said the 42 registered teams still raised almost $93,000 and they are confident they will raise more by the end of the summer.

“At about 1:30 (p.m.), we looked at the radar and the radar was showing that two terrible storms were going to hit about 3:30 and 6:00 or 6:30,” said Terri Lawhorn, of Eastpointe, the chair of the St. Clair Shores Relay for Life.

Because of that, she and other organizers made the decision to evacuate the park at 3 p.m. “and we had to call the relay,” she said.

“It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I had to make.”

Participants did have a make-shift luminaria ceremony to remember those touched by cancer, and honored 70 survivors during the survivor walk they held, in spite of the weather, but they were not able to hold closing ceremonies. Instead, those will be held at the wrap-up picnic for team captains in the park June 18.

“It was a little bit different but still, we relay because we’re relayers and that’s what we do,” Lawhorn said. “I felt that it was the correct decision to be made based upon the direction that I was given by the emergency response (team).”

The 2013 relay was meant to be a spot for participants to sign up for the Cancer Prevention Study-3, as well. City Councilman John Caron, in charge of CPS-3 signup, said that still occurred.

“We were still able to open back up at 5 for the CPS-3,” he said. “We did end up enrolling 75 people, despite the multiple rainstorms and everything rolling on through.

“Overall, I was happy with the 75 that we got, considering the conditions.”

Before weather brought a halt to the American Cancer Society fundraiser, participants said taking part in Relay for Life each year was something very important to them.

“We have to find a cure,” said two-year-cancer survivor Mary Billups, of Grosse Pointe Woods. “Too many people have been affected by it.”

Kicking off the festivities was the lighting of the Flame of Hope by 14-year-old Alix Trombley, of St. Clair Shores, a caregiver for her mother, Corry. Renee Sweet, of Rochester Hills, and 12-year-old Alyssa Trombley, Corry Trombley’s younger daughter, came out as part of the Wings of Hope team to support her.

“My best friend, Corry, just got cleared of breast cancer so we’re here supporting that. My dad’s had cancer twice,” Sweet said. “So has my brother.”

The Flame of Hope was lit in the hopes it would burn for 24 hours as participants were taken “together on a life-affirming journey,” Lawhorn said during opening ceremonies May 31.

But even at that time, Mayor Kip Walby offered up a prayer for good weather as he explained how proud he was that St. Clair Shores is one of the 5,200 communities around the world participating in Relay for Life.

“I’m extremely proud of that,” he said. “We’re looking forward to another 15 years.”

While disappointed in the uncooperative weather, Lawhorn said she was still “pleased with the turnout” and said there will still be fundraisers held throughout the summer in the community to support the event. Donors are still welcome, as well, at