Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Thousands of steps were taken Friday, June 5 towards eradicating cancer.
Stratford's new-look Relay for Life drew over 500 participants who helped raise a total of $144,460, money that will support Canadian Cancer Society programs and services, research, and advocacy.
Canadian Cancer Society Huron-Perth office manager, Dianne Mohr, said no Canadian should have to live in fear of the disease.
"We know something must be done, and the Canadian Cancer Society has the power to fight cancer and save lives."
Relay for Life is often an emotional experience, and this year's was no different. Walking the track at Stratford Central surrounded by family and friends, Shaun Kelly held back tears while remembering his wife Ginny.
The mother to his two young daughters lost her two-year battle with colon cancer in April of this year, just shy of her 38th birthday.
His team wore white shirts with a photograph of Ginny on the front, a stark contrast to last year's event when Kelly walked with his wife at his side.
"We were desperately hoping to do that again this year," he told the Gazette.
But for all the tears shed, Kelly said the event was also a tribute to the loved ones who have been taken from us by cancer too soon, and a celebration of the people who continue to make finding a cure to the disease their mission.
"Hopefully we can make this go away," he added.
The numbers at this year's Relay for Life were relatively on par with 2014's, despite event changes that made the fundraiser more accessible for seniors and families with young children. Most notably, the event duration was shorted to six hours, ending at midnight, instead of running continuously through the night. Some friendly competitive elements were added as well, including relay batons for teams and distance goals.
Before participants set out on their walks, organizers announced some of the early fundraiser leaders over $5,000. The team from Norampac received a $25 donation on the spot to push the St. Marys company over the $10,000 mark.
Cancer survivor Brittany Taylor also shared her personal journey with cancer. The daughter of former NHLer Tim Taylor, she was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin's lymphoma in January 2010. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy and the treatment left her feeling tired and nauseous.
"However, I'm here today, and that's what's really matters," she added.
Cancer is a "negative thing" and "takes the people you love and cherish."
Taylor said the disease also changed her life, noting she met many amazing people throughout her ordeal who have inspired her to become a pediatric oncology nurse.
She thanked the Relay for Life participants, new and old, for giving her that opportunity.
"You helped raise the money to save my life and that of many others," she said.