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Relay for Life honors late Ringgold teacher

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:48 p.m.
Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Kayla Mauk gives Donna Angelo a hug along with her daughter Amber Angelo during the 2013 Relay For Life on Friday, May 3, 2013, at Charleroi Area Stadium. Donna is a eight-year cancer survivor from Charleroi.
Jim Ference | Trib Total Media
Charleroi's Charlene Yakich and her sister Nicole give their father, Charles Yakich, a hug during the Relay For Life on Friday, May 3, 2013, at Charleroi Area Stadium. Charles is a five-year cancer survivor and was on hand to make hot dogs and burgers.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
Glenn Brooks of Scott Township from Voice Of Hope and a one-year cancer survivor high-fives students as they start the Relay For Life on Friday, May 3, 2013, at the Charleroi Area Stadium.

The Relay for Life has grown over the years in participation and as a fundraising event. For many who participate, the event is personal – they dedicate it to a friend or family member who succumbed to cancer.

For the Ringgold community, that took on special significance with the loss in late December of teacher Ed Vercoe.

Ringgold reached out to American Cancer Society and other schools planning to attend the Relay for Life on May 3 at Charleroi Area High School stadium and asked that the event be dedicated to Vercoe. All agreed.

A special memorial service was held in Vercoe's honor.

It was a part of a successful, although emotional, Relay for Life in the Mon Valley.

Almost 900 students on 84 teams raised more than $85,000 for the American Cancer Society benefit.

Last year, the event raised $67,000.

This was the 13th year for Relay for Life. Seven years ago, the Youth Relay for Life was created. Two years ago, the two events were combined.

Neil Gearhart, income development representative for the American Cancer Society, oversees the Relay for Life programs in the region.

“This was one of the biggest fundraising years we've had,” Gearhart said. “This year, we were able to bring back the Frazier School District for the first time in a few years.

“We're getting more and more support from the schools, and it's becoming more competitive.”

At the beginning of each school year, students in each participating district set their own fundraising goals. Some schools set goals as high as $25,000.

Even close to two weeks after the May 3 event, students are still collecting money. Gearhart said the event may raise as much as $90,000 by the time all donations are collected.

Gearhart said the devastation of cancer is hitting home for more for people.

“I think the students have grasped hold of this event and what it means to the community of friends and family,” Gearhart said. “They want to make a difference.”

Students sell food, sponsor games and play sports on the football field.

Registration starts at 5 p.m. for survivors and the survivor celebration starts at 6 p.m., including a lap of the track and dinner.

The luminary ceremony was dedicated to the Rev. Jim Linn of the First Christian Church in Fallowfield Township. Luminaries are sold for $5 in honor of individuals who succumbed to the disease. The candles are lined up along the track fence.

Linn has been a cancer survivor since age 19 in 1979 and has been at the First Christian Church since 1996.

He was diagnosed with glioma in December. He was a reader for the luminary ceremony at Monessen for six years for the Relay for Life.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or