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Kick-off meeting held for annual Relay for Life event

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:05 p.m.
Cami diBattista
MaryAnn Hegan, co-chair of the Relay for Life of Ligonier, sells tickets from Giant Eagle to beneft the American Cancer Society at last week's Relay for Life Kick-off event. Cami DiBattista | Ligonier Echo photo taken by Cami DiBattista in Ligonier

Relay for Life of Ligonier earned more than $100,000 annually the last three years for the American Cancer Society placing the group in the top 10 per capita for the entire nation.

Relay for Life is a unique community event, now in its 12th year in Ligonier, that allows participants to join in the fight against cancer, celebrate survivors of the disease and remember lost loved ones.

“The annual kick off is the first official team get-together of the year,” said fifth year co-chairman of the event, Eric Vogelsang of Ligonier, “We pass out information to old teams and hope to attract new teams for the event.”

The recent informal meeting was a chance for teams to sign up to attend the relay and to gather information about the event and learn ways in which their teams can fundraise.

“It's all about having fun and raising money for a great cause,” said five-year Relay for Life attendee, Elaine Trzeciak of Ligonier.

This year's relay is scheduled for May 17 – 18 and will take place at the track of Ligonier Valley School District's Weller Field.

Between 25 and 30 teams participate annually, said Vogelsang, who said that he is expecting at least that many this year.

Teams are sponsored by businesses and individuals for the overnight event.

Members of each team take turns walking around the track for an entire 24-hour period.

Teams incorporate a theme – this year's is ‘Wouldn't it be sweet to beat cancer?'– to add a touch of silliness. Members will choose a candy or sweet to represent their team and then dress up and decorate their tent to showcase their sweet, Vogelsang said. Teams also prepare baskets to raffle off the day of the event to raise additional money.

Ligonier community schools, banks, merchants and churches are among the groups being represented.

“It really is amazing how the whole community pulls together to make the Relay a success,” said first year co-chairwoman, MaryAnn Hegan of Ligonier.

A member of Voices of Hope – a group of cancer survivors who speak at ACS events – attended the kick-off and told his story to relay participants.

“It's nice to be reminded of why we're here,” said Vogelsang.

Glenn Brooks, a neck and throat cancer survivor from the South Hills of Pittsburgh, spoke of his experience with cancer and the faith, love and hope that he needed to survive the ordeal. He talked of how the ACS pulls through for those coping with the disease in many ways and how the Relay for Life is a chance to embrace life and experience camaraderie with other cancer survivors.

“From a survivor's perspective, it (the event) blows you away,” Brooks said.

A highlight of the Relay for Life is the dinner and ceremony honoring the attending cancer survivors, said Vogelsang, who added that between 75 and 100 survivors usually attend the event.

To participate in Relay for Life of Ligonier or donate to the American Cancer Society, call 724-834-9081 or visiting RelayForLife.org/paLigonier.

“I couldn't imagine not being involved in Relay for Life,” said Vogelsang, “It's the most rewarding experience.”

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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