Community relays for cure

Published 7:06 pm Sunday, July 22, 2012

Daily Star photo/KATIE ROHMAN Forty-two teams, including some virtual teams, signed up for the Relay for Life of Niles-Buchanan Saturday and Sunday at Niles High School.

Every day is a reason to celebrate for Buchanan residents Sue and Chelsea Hipshear.

On Saturday and Sunday, however, the Relay for Life of Niles-Buchanan offered them the opportunity to wear sparkly Mardi Gras costumes and raise money to fight the disease that plagued Chelsea for more than two years.

Chelsea learned she was cancer-free on her 18th birthday Feb. 20. She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November 2010.

Sue, team captain of Circle of Friends, started participating in the American Cancer Society fundraiser 12 years ago when her brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. He died after that Relay.

Circle of Friends had raised $2,300 by the opening ceremony Saturday at Niles High School. Teams sold food, held fundraisers and organized games during the 20-hour event, which began at noon and included water balloon volleyball, a hula-hoop tournament, sexy legs contest, midnight movie and more.

The proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

“The organization that you are supporting, we are here from the beginning to the end,” said Crystal Parish, director of the American Cancer Society Southwest Michigan Area Service in Portage, during the opening ceremony. “That’s exactly what your dollars are doing.”

“Few families are not touched by this awful disease,” U.S. Rep. Fred Upton said during the ceremony.

One of the highlights of the event is its trademark luminaria ceremony, where bags with candles are lit in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those who lost their battles. New to the event this year were floating luminarias — large purple bags that were lit and floated in the air like balloons.

“If anyone ever questions why we do this, come to the luminaria ceremony,” said Margarget Dawson, co-chairwoman of the Relay for Life of Niles-Buchanan.

The Relay concluded with a closing ceremony at 8 a.m. Sunday.

Dawson said the goal this year was to raise $80,000. Forty-two teams registered for fundraising; some teams are virtual. The Relay raised more than $70,000 in 2011.

“Everyone seems to be enthusiastic about it,” Dawson said. “We are here for the survivors.”

Dawson has participated in the Relay since its first year in Niles 15 years ago, when her sister was diagnosed with lymphoma. She is now a cancer survivor.

“I lost my father in 1978, at a very young age,” she said. “I’ve lost both my parents to cancer.

“It just impacts so many people.”