Relay raises thousands to help those with cancer

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 12, 2016

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — With sunshine streaming through the trees and white tents sprouting up alongside the walking path, Veterans Memorial Park was transformed for 22 hours in the hopes that someday there would be a cure for cancer.

“We relay to stop doing relays,” said Jack Erdman, of Warren, during the kickoff of the 2016 St. Clair Shores Relay for Life June 3. He graduated from Lakeview High School in 2012 and was friends with Zachary Howell, a 2013 graduate of Lakeview who lost his battle with brain cancer last year. Howell’s family lit the torch, which symbolizes the hope that they will someday celebrate a day with no cancer.

The St. Clair Shores Relay for Life began in 1999 in the parking lot of Civic Arena. It moved the following year to Blossom Heath Park, and this is the first year it was held in Veterans Memorial Park. Over the 18 years, the relay has raised more than $2 million for the American Cancer Society, City Councilman John Caron said.

“This is a brand-new leadership team, brand-new location — we’re excited about that. We’ve had a lot of people step up,” said Katie Campbell, marketing volunteer with the St. Clair Shores Relay for Life.

Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society through an overnight event honoring survivors, those still fighting cancer, and remembering those who have lost the battle with cancer. This year’s event took place from 2 p.m. June 3 to noon June 4 in Veterans Memorial Park.

The new venue, Campbell said, gave the event a lot more room than they had when they held it at Blossom Heath Park, and 16 teams spread out their tents and activities to raise more than $59,500, as of press time.

“For it being a new location and new leadership, we’re extremely excited with the team turnout this year,” Campbell said.

With a rousing kickoff begun by the team from Lakeview High School, teams took their first lap around the park just after 2 p.m. in the warm sunshine.

Kathy Ewald, of St. Clair Shores, is a six-year survivor of breast cancer, and this was her third year participating in Relay for Life.

“I like the Relay for Life because it’s for all cancers,” she said. “It’s for everybody.

“They (the American Cancer Society) really help a lot. If someone can’t pay for their treatment, they really help out. I’m really glad I did (get involved).”

Barb Lamb, of St. Clair Shores, said she appreciates the camaraderie of all the survivors at the event. She is a breast cancer survivor herself.

“It’s nice to hear everybody’s journey and realize you’re not alone,” she said, explaining that she usually does the survivor lap with two other friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer within a year of her diagnosis.

The event isn’t just for participants, either, with different teams selling different things to raise money for the cause. At the Tippy’s Tah-Tahs tent, visitors could get haircuts, massages and even photos with a mermaid. Other booths sold funnel cake fries, cannolis and coney dogs, all to raise more money for the American Cancer Society.

“My daughter lives in St. Clair Shores and she is a cancer survivor. We always come to support her,” said Jill Czech, of Greenville, Michgan, the mother of co-chair Tasha Herron, of St. Clair Shores. “My husband is also a cancer survivor and (we) have lost family members to cancer, so (it is) just really important to come out and support those who’ve lost, those fighting and those considered survivors. We can’t forget about it.”

“It’s hard to lose a loved one to cancer,” agreed Gigi Kaprin, of St. Clair Shores. “If we don’t have support, then there’s no hope.”

This was Samantha Heck’s first time at relay. The St. Clair Shores resident was walking for her grandmother, who has stage four uterine cancer, and her grandfather, a 20-year survivor of colorectal cancer.

“You never want to hear those words. You don’t want to hear your family member has cancer,” she said. “It takes over your life.”

To donate, visit www.relayforlife.org/stclairshoresmi.

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