City Park hosts 20th annual Relay for Life

Relay for Life is well known for honoring cancer survivors who led the first of four walks around the southeast side of City Park.

Relay for Life teams raise money throughout the year to support the American Cancer Society to prepare the medical field in its fight against the disease. Teams walked First Avenue and sidewalks closest to the riverfront in City Park and up to the bandstand before returning to their starting point on First Avenue.

The Friday evening event saw individuals writing “messages to Heaven” on balloons before releasing them into the sky to commemorate lost loved ones and friends.

GALLIPOLIS — City Park played host Friday evening to Gallia County’s 20th annual Relay for Life in support of the American Cancer Society and cancer battle research.

The event opened with a survivors’ celebration, registration and dinner at 4 p.m. sponsored by Drs. Alice and Eddie Dachowski. The pair provided all food and beverages for the meal.

Tony Gallagher, 75, Galllipolis City Commission member and twice survivor of cancer, noted the importance of Relay for Life to the Gallia County community and the necessity of celebrating cancer survivors.

“I had thyroid cancer and they operated on me on my 62nd birthday. I was laying on the gurney and I said, ‘This was a heck of a way to spend my birthday.’ That was the first time I realized that I was going to die some time. I never would have believed it before,” he said. “(While I was lying) there before they wheeled me into the (surgery room), I realized life is short. I decided then to retire and spend the rest of my life supporting the good of people.”

Tinna Diddle, of Sunny 93.1, served as mistress of ceremonies and invited Fred Williams, a local chaplain, to lead the ceremony’s invocation around 6 p.m.

Paul Koch and Boy Scout Troop 2001 marched the American flag to the stage and led the Pledge of Allegiance. Karrie Davison led the relay’s oath

“We confirm that we are here to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors, to support those fighting cancer and to remember those we have lost. Our commitment will be symbolized in every step we take, each and every step moving us nearer to our goal — the goal of a cancer-free world,” she and the audience spoke in unison.

Survivors then lined up in the midsection of City Park nearest to First Avenue before starting on their promenade south. Once they reached the intersection of Court Street, they turned and followed luminaries along the sidewalk toward the bandstand and then marched toward the intersection of First Avenue and State Street. Finally, they marched back to the starting line.

Sharon Brown, three-time survivor of cancer, was one of the first walkers in the survivors’ line. She had her last cancer treatment March 1, 1997. She was soon recruited for a relay team afterward. She walks to honor her mother, friends and herself as a survivor. She wore a pink mustache.

“I always told people I had it three time because it took (God) that many times to get me to understand that I can make money,” Brown shared with a laugh.

Brown has supported cancer research and fundraised ever since her last battle with cancer in 1997.

Caretakers of cancer patients then followed with their walk. Fundraising teams came after the caregivers and were recognized by Diddle for their support over the stretch of the last year.

At 7 p.m., Shana Smith, a local country artist, took the stage to entertain the crowd before being followed by the band Ordinary People. Paul “Bub” Williams performed last.

Crowd attendees that fit none of the previous walk categories then took to the walk path. Bryna Butler led the following luminaria ceremony and a quiet candle walk was held for all.

The 2015 ACS Gallia County Relay Leadership Committee led the closing ceremony followed by the closing benediction.