Fayette Relay for Life celebrates 2 decades

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 5:09 p.m.

It may be the only Relay for Life in the county, but the Fayette County event is one of the longest-running relays in the area, celebrating its 20th year of honor, memories and hope.

“We have had a lot of really great relays over the years,” longtime Fayette Relay for Life co-chairwoman Barbara Fike said. “We are celebrating 20 years of hope in Fayette County.”

The annual Fayette Relay for Life will be held from 10 a.m. Saturday through 10 a.m. Aug. 10 on the grounds of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.

Fike, who chairs the event with Ed Kustron, said that about 35 teams are expected to take part in this year's 24-hour relay.

“The number of teams is a little down from last year, but we are excited to see a lot of new teams that started up this year,” Fike said.

The relay will kick off at noon Saturday with the ceremonial torch that will be brought into the event by runners from area track teams and the Fayette Striders, an adult running group from the area.

“It's really pretty cool to see the torch as it comes in,” Fike said, adding that the torch will be handed off to cancer survivor Shelly Ralston, who will officially bring the torch to the site. “It really makes a statement.”

Event ambassador Stacey Dolphi then will be formally introduced and will lead the event's inaugural lap.

“We have a lot planned this year,” Fike said.

Relays have become very popular over the years and are now held in more than 20 countries around the world, with all proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

“The relays are our biggest fundraisers, and we are also grateful to the many people who take the time to make the events successful,” American Cancer Society Relay Specialist Andrea King said. “Since there is only one in Fayette County, we hope to see support from all the communities there, and we hope to see people from all over the area join in the event.”

Fike added that with the 20-year celebration, they are encouraging a reflection of years gone by.

“We are trying to be a little nostalgic,” Fike said. “We asked people who participated before if they could wear an old relay shirt; then we are going to have a special lap for them.”

At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the survivor sign-up will begin with the special survivor lap to take place at 5 p.m.

“The survivors will take a lap by themselves, then they will be joined by their caregivers,” Fike said, adding that they like to give special recognition to the caregivers who are a huge support to the survivors. “The caregivers will join up and walk with their survivor. It's always very moving.”

At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, everyone will then be asked to join together for the luminary walk.

“We call it the Luminary Hope Ceremony,” Fike said, adding that the participants can walk with their luminaries, after which the 15-foot letters that spell “HOPE” will be lit and stay lit throughout the event.

The ceremony will also feature the very special silent lap.

“We do one silent lap where the entire place is completely silent,” Fike said. “No talking or music. Sometimes we have 1,000 people, and they are absolutely silent. It's amazing.”

Participants from the community are encouraged to come to the site to see and visit with the different teams, take part in some of the fundraising and grab some food.

“This is the only relay in the county,” Fike said. “We need everyone to come together. We are all doing this for the same reasons. It's not only to raise money, but to celebrate, to honor those who are fighting and to remember those who are gone. We all want to see the same thing, and that is to see all of this gone one day.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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