For Jennifer Husk, a breast cancer survivor, her involvement in Liberty Relay for Life is not only an opportunity to honor those who have died from cancer, but to also help those who are fighting it.
"It's something good that comes out of a lot of bad," she said of the event.
Husk, who was diagnosed two years ago, is a member of the Jen /West fork Roadhouse team, which honors her, her mother and her sister-in-law, who both succumbed to cancer, as well as captain Tina VanSuch's sister, who was diagnosed with cancer about a month ago.
Tribune Chronicle file photo / R. Michael Semple
Cancer survivors walk in the opening lap of the 2009 Relay For Life in Liberty. This year’s Relay will be Friday and Saturday at Churchill Park.
Though this is the first year that Husk and VanSuch have had their own team, the two have wasted no time coming up with creative ways to raise money. In addition to selling daffodils and the American Cancer Society Boyd stuffed bears, the team has also made use of local breweries, holding a beer-tasting at the West Fork Roadhouse restaurant that featured microbrews from the Rust Belt Brewery, which is based in Youngstown.
The two have appreciated the positive, more intimate experience that they've had by forming a team this year, and were also thankful they got the chance to talk to many others who have dealt with cancer.
"I don't think there's anybody's life that it doesn't touch," Husk said.
WHAT: Liberty Relay For Life
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, May 14, to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 15
WHERE: Churchill Park
The Liberty Relay has given some volunteers the opportunity to share stories, and to find support among fellow survivors or those who have also lost relatives to cancer. Forty 24-hour walkers have signed up for the event, to be held 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday at Churchill Park, said Sandy Zians, tri-chair. One of the walkers will be holding a digital frame featuring a slideshow of pictures that are in honor or in memory of individuals. Pictures will also be displayed in the creek with votive candles during the luminaria ceremony.
"Our luminaria ceremony is just breathtaking and moving," Zians said.
Lori Furlong, who is co-captain of the Liberty Walmart team, said first-time participants are often especially touched by the luminaria ceremony.
"It hits home with everybody," Furlong said.
Involvement in Relay events is a family affair for Furlong, whose mother, a two-time survivor of breast cancer, is involved with her church team. Furlong lost her father seven years ago to lung cancer.
Furlong's team has been busy selling pins, t-shirts and lanyards, and holding potlucks and breakfasts at the Liberty Walmart. Since the store is relatively new, they've also managed to sign up 40 people who have never walked in a Relay event before, she said.
This is Carol and her daughter Casey Mirkin's first Relay; the two have formed a team to honor their son and brother, Ryan, who died Dec. 16 of adrenal cancer. The Mirkins have been receiving donations from family and friends and are also selling a t-shirt bearing Ryan's image. People are wearing them all over town, they said. Though the time has been difficult, the two said the experience has been therapeutic.
"There's a lot of love in the community. People really do care," Casey Mirkin said.