No finish line until we find a cure

Friday, August 8, 2003

Throughout the night, hundreds of walkers will make the trek around Norris Park, doing their part in the worldwide fight against cancer by participating in McCook's "Relay For Life."

Sparked by the all-out support of the staff at Community Hospital, the fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society has soared to new heights in the past three years. Gifts surged above the $15,000 mark two years ago, then climbed above $25,000 last year.

And, this year, another record in giving is being established. "We're already above last year's record, and the first steps in the relay have not yet been taken," said Dixie Bethell, a Community Hospital business office employee who is co-chair of the 2003 Relay with Barb Bortner, the hospital's community resources director.

The giving will continue this evening, as 30 teams and more than 300 walkers are registered to participate. The Relay for Life will begin at 7 p.m. with a short program, then cancer survivors -- wearing blue T-shirts -- will join for the first lap around the park.

Leading the way will be this year's honorary chairperson, Brenda McGuire. She will be joined for the first lap by 11-year-old Alyssa Karr, a seven-year cancer survivor, and 98-year-old former Nebraska Gov. Frank Morrison, who has returned to his McCook home after receiving treatment for esophageal cancer in North Platte.

Mrs. McGuire, who is a 34-year cancer survivor, says the important thing to remembers is "That there is life after cancer. The c-word does frighten us, but it is not the end of the line."

Her philosophy is reflected in the message which appears on the T-shirts worn by Relay participants: "There's no finish line until we find a cure."

Although there's a 50-50 chance of rain tonight, the plans as of midday were to go ahead with the walk. "There was also a threat of rain last year, but we went ahead," Bethell said. Many of the teams are bringing campers and tents, providing refuge should the rains come.

And -- in between the raindrops -- there will be plenty to keep the walkers interest, including bandstand numbers, and activities such as a cake walk, games and bed head competition.

While there will be plenty of entertainment, there will be touching moments as well. Among the most special will be the lighting of the luminaria candles at dusk.

Placed alongside the sidewalks in paper sacks filled with sand, the candles are in honor of cancer victims, both living and dead. As they glow through the night, the candles remind us of why we walk and why we are joining in the search for a cure for cancer.

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