In addition to celebrating money raised to fight cancer, Saturday's Relay for Life event at Indian Trail also celebrated cancer survivors. (Photos by Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
Saturday’s 12-hour Relay For Life event at Indian Trail School wasn't a fundraiser. It was more of a celebration of all the fundraisers that take place throughout the year to raise money to fight cancer.
Local American Cancer Society Community Representative Jennifer Poff said the day of the actual relay is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work.
“This is a celebration of all the fundraising,” Poff said.
Poff said the event’s goal is to hit a total of $106,000 for the ACS, with $75,000 already raised at the start of the day. Whatever the total, the majority of the cash will be staying locally for programs to help those in the area diagnosed with cancer in their fight.
That fight, specifically, is what the event was all about. There were dozens of people walking among the crowd wearing shirts that said “Finish The Fight” by not giving up in the battle against cancer.
The chairwoman of Indian Trail Intermediate School’s Relay For Life team was someone who could talk about the fight, other people’s fights, how to take care of someone and what it takes to keep going.
Sheila Loudermilk is well experienced with all those things. She found her own breast cancer in 2009 and has been fighting ever since. This was just around the time her mother was also diagnosed with lung cancer, something that she and her dad had to deal with all at once.
As big of a task as this might have been, Loudermilk said there was no way she was going to give up on the fight. Though her mother ultimately died, she looks at the positive of the situation: the strength her father used in situations where he would bring Loudermilk’s mother to treatment, only to return and do the same thing for his daughter. That kind of strength translated into power for his daughter, too.
“I was determined not to let it be me,” she said.
And that’s something she passes on to anyone she meets who might recently have been diagnosed or is also going through the fight.
She was hoping that throughout the 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. event, where each of the 39 teams was asked to keep a member of their team on the track to keep the relay going, that they would have 600-800 like-minded people in one spot, raising awareness and fighting cancer together.
While other people with cancer might have responded “why me?” to their diagnosis, Loudermilk said she responds with “why not?”
This kind of reaction, she said, changes her attitude moving forward in the battle and allows her to focus on winning, which she says is extremely important during chemotherapy. Not a fan of throwing up her hands and giving up, she says she was working six months into having cancer and wants to show others that they can, too.
Gigantic air-filled Batman, Spider-Man and basketball-shooting houses were lining the back portion of Indian Trail’s track with a nearby Sandy Lowe taking tickets and giving armbands to anyone who wanted to play with them.
“They can jump until their heart’s content,” Lowe announced to the lines of kids who wanted to take part in the fun.
She, like Loudermilk, has more experience with cancer than she’d like to have, but wants to also provide help to those who need it.
As well as having skin cancer on multiple occasions herself, her 11-year-old daughter, Summer, died about eight years ago after fighting a very brave fight, her mother said. When doctors gave her three months to live, Summer Lowe fought for nine, changing her mother’s perception of how long her mother would make it, tugging on her heartstrings the entire time.
“She was jumping to help other people through her fight,” Lowe said about her daughter. “If there was something experimental, she wanted to do it, at the chance of saving someone else’s life in the future.”
Cassie, Lowe’s 9-year-old daughter is also active in the fight against cancer, going with her mom to St. Jude walks and support events all to help out where they can. Sandy Lowe says there are a lot of resources, like those through Relay For Life, that are available to people affected by cancer and wants to help let others know about that.
Nothing gets the point across, Sandy Lowe said, like having a fun day to get the word out and she was proud to be a part of the action.
For more information about Relay For Life events, go to www.relayforlife.org.
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