More than 80 cancer survivors lined up to start off the 14th annual Barbour County Relay For Life - kicking off a 12-hour event designed to honor those who are fighting cancer and remember those who lost their battles.
The event began Friday evening with a survivors lap around the pavilion at the Barbour County Fairgrounds. Survivors were joined shortly after by 10 returning teams from past Relay events and five new teams registered this year.
"At night when it gets dark, that represents the darkest moment of a cancer survivor - but in the morning, when the sun rises, that's hope," said Shelley Starkey, event chairperson, who was 28 when diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She's been cancer-free for seven years.
The Inter-Mountain photos by Melissa Toothman
More than 80 cancer survivors gather Friday to participate in the Barbour County Relay For Life at the Barbour County fairgrounds. More photos can be found online at cu.theintermountain.com
Starkey and her family had their own team in the Relay called Arden River Rats.
While taking turns walking laps around the course, Relay participants also took part in a range of activities, such as a Luminaria Ceremony, Zumba, a Little Miss/Mister Relay contest, a live auction and more.
Many items were sold during the live auction, such as a dining room table with chairs, Arden Bridge memorabilia, filled baskets, handmade quilts and baskets, Relay items and more.
The three contestants for Little Miss/Mister Relay raised $1,000 together.
Caitlyn Everson, 12, of Belington, was crowned Little Miss Barbour County Relay; Lily Mae Richards, 1, of Philippi, was runner-up for the crown. Tucker Scott, 2, was awarded the crown for Little Mister Barbour County Relay 2012. This year's Little Miss winner was crowned by 8-year-old Stephanie Santilli, the Little Miss Barbour County Relay for 2011.
The goal for this year's Relay was to raise $50,000 to support the American Cancer Society.
"We're hoping to bust out the goal this year," said Howard Swick, master of ceremonies, who was accompanied by a second master of ceremonies, Nick Allen.
Swick's 12-year-old daughter, Kaitlin Swick, was born with cancer and has been cancer-free for 10 years, he said. She was among the survivors participating in Relay.
Starkey said this year's Relay had several more sponsors than normal, including Belington Medical Clinic, Freedom Bank, Broaddus Hospital, BC Bank, Texas Roadhouse, Belington Elementary School, Wolf Run Mining, Kasson Elementary/Middle School, Allegheny Insurance, Mullins & Mullins and Alderson-Broaddus College.
Many survivors had unique stories to tell about their experiences with cancer, and they all feel that participating in Relay is a great way to raise awareness and funding for the American Cancer Society.
Barbara Summerfield, of Belington, had cancer for three years. She's been cancer-free for a year and a half and said participating in Relay for Life "helps out - it goes back to (fighting) cancer."
Survivor Annette Fetty-Santilli, of Philippi, was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2002. She said her daughter's babysitter, Nancy Hartman, also suffered from nasal cancer.
"(Cancer) can be anywhere," she said.
Last year, her daughter raised $950 toward the cause.
"My favorite part is the comradery and being able to honor the memory of loved ones passed," said Fetty-Santilli, who received a Governor's Service Award for her hard work advocating for a cure for pancreatic cancer.
Others who have never personally suffered from cancer also participated, and teams set up booths along the pavilion to sell concessions throughout the event.
Vilynda Stout, of Fairmont, decorated a Luminaria bag to honor her sister, who lives in Barbour County and is battling cancer, as well as her mother and aunt, who passed away because of the disease.
More information about Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society is available online at www.relayforlife.org.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at email@example.com.