Niles kicks off relays

NILES – Cancer faced a who’s who of superheroes Friday, from the cast of “Star Wars” to “The Avengers.”

And in the end it was flushed down a giant purple toilet.

Nearly 20 teams are participating in the year’s first Relay for Life in Trumbull County, which is the premier fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. The Niles Relay continues until 6 p.m. today at the Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center on Sharkey Drive in Waddell Park.

Following the opening ceremonies, walkers took to the track for 24 hours.

As always, there were teams dressed in colorful costumes to help raise money for cancer research.

One of the teams got some help this year with characters from the “Star Wars” films. Jeff Mendenhall, who heads up the Sweet Things team, asked the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club to come and help out.

One of the Mercs, Dave Quillen, said they like to don their costumes to help charities.

”We’re just a bunch of nerds who like to dress up like action figures and help people,” Quillen said, whose fellow team members dressed as Boba Fett, a young Obi Wan Kenobi and a Tusken Raider.

The team for the Niles High School Key Club nicknamed themselves The Avengers after the Marvel Comics superhero group, and Captain America and The Incredible Hulk were on hand to battle cancer. When told there were more than two Avengers, Dominic Ficeti, dressed as Captain America, offered a reason for that.

”The costume shop only had two costumes,” he said.

The team named themselves The Avengers for a simple reason, Ficeti said: ”To avenge cancer.”

The team Cancer Sucks is in its first year participating in Relay and was formed by Connie Pykare in memory of her mother in law, Olive Pykare of Warren, who died of bone cancer in November at the age of 87.

”I figured this was the best way to honor her,” Pykare said.

Most Relay teams spend the better part of a year planning for the event. Pykare’s team, however, didn’t start until January.

”The first year is hard because you don’t know what to expect,” Pykare said.

The team has raised $3,200 since its inception, Pykare said, and also had the coup de grace for the evening; its own purple toilet, where cancer could take a special trip.

”We’re flushing cancer down the drain,” Pykare said.