Fighting cancer one step at a time

SURVIVORS’ LAP: A group of cancer survivors walk together during the Survivors’ Lap at the 2011 Relay for Life. Seventy-five local survivors were honored at the event. (Pioneer file photos)

Annual Relay for Life of Mecosta County to be held on Sept. 15-16

BIG RAPIDS — With a little more than two weeks until the annual Relay for Life of Mecosta County, organizers are making final preparations for the event that supports cancer research.

The 24-hour walk-a-thon begins at 9 a.m. on Sept. 15 and concludes at 9 a.m. the next day at Hemlock Park in Big Rapids. Organizers hope to raise $75,000 at this year’s relay. Last year, more than $68,400 was raised for the American Cancer Society for cancer research.

“We’re trying to raise funds to fight to find a cure for cancer,” said Marcy Jaques, co-chair of the organizing committee. “The money raised goes for cancer research nationally, but a portion of the money we raise stays in the region at places like the Hope House in Grand Rapids. A lot of people who stay there are from Mecosta County.”

More than 30 teams currently are registered for the relay. New teams still can register. Organizers’ goal is to have 40 teams participate.

Those who participate in the relay are people who have been affected by cancer, Jaques said. The theme of this year’s relay is “Going for the Gold,” which is in honor of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

“(Walkers) do it to support the loved ones who they may have lost, those who may be suffering now, those who have survived cancer as well as to support the caregivers,” Jaques said. “We also get a lot of people who are there just to support the cause; they may not have had cancer or know anyone with cancer, which is pretty unlikely nowadays.”

New to this year’s relay is the addition of a 5K, which will be held the first day of the event from Hemlock Park to Northend Riverside Park. Organizers still are finalizing the details of the run.

This will be the third year the relay event is held at Hemlock Park. Organizers like the friendly atmosphere that the park offers and feel it helps attract more passersby to participate in the event, said Marie Matuszak, community representative for the Great Lakes Division of the American Cancer Society.

Walkers will travel along a one-third-mile walking path at Hemlock Park. The route is split between the Riverwalk and the parking lot within the park. She expects between 750 and 800 people, including the registered teams, to walk in the annual event.

“There’s a lot of visibility in the community at the park,” Matuszak said. “The route itself is very pretty, because it’s right along the water.”

LIGHTING THE WAY: More than 1,300 luminaries were lit at dusk during the 2011 Relay for Life. Participants could make luminaries – paper bags with candles in them – in memory of someone who had died of cancer or in honor of someone who had survived cancer or is still dealing with it.

Organizers take precautions to ensure safety along the Muskegon River each year, and there has never been any incidents or issues with the water. As in past years, the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Posse will be on hand patrolling the water’s edge.

“We have had zero problems along the river in the past two years,” Jaques said. “There’s so many things going on in the center circle, you kind of forget the river is there.”

For more information about the 2012 relay, contact Marcy Jaques at (231) 425-8987.

A special raffle will be held during the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life of Mecosta County. Prizes include an iPad, $250 cash and a makeover by Just Teasin Salon.

Tickets in the raffle can be purchased during the 24-hour relay, which will be held from 9 a.m. on Sept. 15 to 9 a.m. on Sept. 16 at Hemlock Park in Big Rapids. Tickets are $1 each or $5 for six. All proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society. Winners do not need to be present to win.

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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