Cortland marks 15th annual relay

CORTLAND – For the past 15 years, the Bazetta and Cortland communities have shown their support for cancer survivors and fought for a cancer-free world as part of the annual Cortland Relay For Life.

Kate Elliott, event co-chair, said this year 11 teams from the Cortland, Bazetta, Mecca, Champion and Johnston areas camped out at the Lakeview High School football stadium with a goal of raising $84,000 for the American Cancer Society.

”It’s the local relay families coming together to kick cancer to the curb,” Elliott said, adding this year’s weather was cooperative compared to last year, which saw a lot of rain.

King of the event was Tom Bruner of Cortland, a four-year lung cancer survivor, who carried the survivor lap banner along with event queen, Pat Tharp of Johnston.

”We all have experienced cancer. Most of my left lung is gone. … This event is special to all of the cancer survivors who can all come together united in their fight against cancer,” Bruner said.

Tharp, a four-year cancer survivor, said she has been involved with local relays for 18 years.

”These are thrilling events. It always amazes me the many people who come out to support this,” said Tharp, who was part of the Johnston Federated United Methodist Church’s team.

David Graora, a member of the Relay for Life planning committee, said the event brings hope to those battling cancer.

”Today’s event helps us continue to raise money to research and find answers to this disease. We are shooting for the ultimate dream of a cancer-free world,” Graora said.

He said the survivors are to be celebrated for what they have overcome, and prayers are said for loved ones who did not win the fight.

Kevin Wise of Warren, a five-year cancer survivor, said he was amazed by the number survivors present.

”The people are happy for us being cancer survivors. That really touches my heart. I also applaud them for showing their support and being here,” Wise said.

Donna Zuga, president of the Lakeview Board of Education, said the district is a supporter of the cause.

”We have faculty members, their families and students who have fought and beaten cancer. We are here for them,” Zuga said after receiving a plaque from the relay committee thanking Lakeview schools for the support.

Members of the Dorma and Bradley families joined with members from Cortland, McDonald and Bazetta to form the Family United team. Now in its second year, the team raised more than $10,000 last year.

The team came together for three family members who are survivors and friends who are survivors.

Danielle Dorma, Nick Dorma and Ben Bradley carried the team’s banner around the track during the opening ceremonies.

The Relay continues today.