Lots of life in Warren

WARREN – Grace Petiya, a 62-year cancer survivor, was among the more than 600 survivors who walked the opening lap Friday night of the state’s top money-making and most-attended Relay for Life.

”With God’s help, I am still here. We are all here together,” Petiya, of Warren, said. ”I am here to help them find a cure. I wish they do.”

She walked the Warren Relay for Life kickoff with friends Sarah Litz of Warren, a 3 1/2-year survivor, and Sue Garvin of Warren, a one-year survivor.

”This is my first time walking. It’s wonderful, and there is so much support,” Garvin said.

With banners and T-shirts with messages such as ”Finish the Fight: I am Hope” and ”Strike Out Cancer,” 73 teams helped draw awareness to finding a cure for cancer and raising money for the American Cancer Society.

The Warren Relay for Life is the largest in Ohio and the 37th-largest in the nation. It has also earned top honors for the record amounts of money its participants raise.

Petiya said she credits good treatments, good doctors, good attitude and good luck to being a cancer survivor since the 1950s.

Stephanie Young of the Champion Nazarene Church team said her team used the ”Naz Champ Avengers: Fighters for a Cause” theme with the 15-team members dressed as superheroes.

”The overall relay theme is ‘Finish the Fight,’ and we thought why not be superheroes helping to fight for the cure?” she said.

Erin Glista, specialist with American Cancer Society Relay for Life, said Warren has earned such praise and recognition being the largest relay in Ohio. She said the goal this year is to raise $349,000.

Glista said the weekend will include children’s games, luminaria ceremony, Cleveland Browns player autograph signing, and live bands.

Mayor Doug Franklin praised the more than 600 cancer survivors who took their walk around Courthouse Square just before the rain.

”I’m proud to say this is the biggest, baddest and best relay in the state of Ohio. This is a battle we all want to win. You survivors represent is the spirit of Warren and give so much hope,” Franklin said.

”We are a community that is about survival. When we take a hit we get back up and polish ourselves off and stand back up are ready to fight again. That is the spirit of Warren,” he said.

Parade king Greg Toro and queen Cheryl Webber, both of Warren, said they were honored to be chosen to lead the survivors lap.

”It is very humbling,” Webber said.

”There are a lot of people who have faced much more than I have. We are all survivors,” Toro said.

Survivors were treated to a dinner served by Outback Steakhouse from Niles. Ben Rhoads, owner, said he has always wanted to help and show support to the survivors.