Hundreds participate in Fayette Relay for Life

| Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, 7:39 p.m.

Lisa Rose, co-chairwoman of the American Cancer Society's Fayette Relay for Life, joined the fundraising event nine years ago as a breast cancer survivor.

And now years later, Rose keeps going. She was one of many cancer survivors and their families who participated in the 20th annual event at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. This year's theme was “Celebrating Years at Hope.”

“I knew that I had to help with this fundraiser when I became a cancer survivor,” Rose said. “I was motivated to do this so I could help other people who are going through the same thing that I faced. I know how difficult it is when you are diagnosed with cancer.”

The 24-hour fundraiser kicked off at noon Saturday during opening ceremonies.

Barb Yalich Fike, chairwoman of this year's event, welcomed the crowd, saying, “Our hope for the event is that all of you have a great time as we work for a good cause — reaching our goal for a cure.”

This year's fundraising goal was set at $150,000, according to Andrea King, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life specialist, the only paid employee who was working with about 30 volunteers who organized the event.

“We've already raised about $80,000,” King said. “We're hoping to raise the rest of the money over the weekend. We raised $146,000 last year, and we're hoping to surpass that amount.”

During the past 20 years, Yalich Fike said the most money that was raised was a little less than $200,000.

“We're hoping to see a large crowd and raise a lot of money this year because the weather is cooperating,” Yalich Fike said. “It's a beautiful day, and it's not too hot.”

King said money raised at the event is earmarked for education and local programs, including “Road to Recovery,” that provides cancer patients with rides to treatment, and “Look Good ... Feel Better,” which helps women find appropriate wigs and makeup to help them deal with the effects of chemotherapy.

Yalich Fike said she expected a constant stream of about 300 to 1,000 people throughout the daylong event.

As the opening ceremonies began, Gino Mollica, 16, and Grace Fike, the 7-year-old daughter of Yalich Fike, sang the national anthem as the Laurel Highlands Junior ROTC presented the flag.

“Relay is a celebration of life,” Yalich Fike told the crowd. “The Relay for Life is a team effort. We hope you will enjoy all of the festivities and take the time to visit all of the campsites and make some new friends.”

Runners from the Fayette Striders and the local track teams carried the torch of hope through Fayette County communities.

“This torch of hope represents our special commitment to Relay and the hope to someday conquer cancer,” Yalich Fike said.

Cancer survivor Shelly Ralston carried the torch and handed it to Stacey Ann Redshaw Dolfi, 32, a cancer survivor and the ambassador for this year's event.

Dolfi was diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin's lymphoma in August 2003 at the age of 21. She underwent six months of chemotherapy.

She was treated every two weeks for hours at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh. She then completed 17 rounds of radiation at UPMC Shadyside. In April 2004, she completed all of her treatment. Five years later, she was considered to be cured.

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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