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Monday, Sep 22, 2014

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Several walk single file past luminary bags that each represent a loved one who died from cancer.

Several walk single file past luminary bags that each represent a loved one who died from cancer.

Photo courtesy of: Ellis Wallinger

Relay for Life themed-balloons decorate a stairway within Ping Center.

Relay for Life themed-balloons decorate a stairway within Ping Center.

Photo courtesy of: Ellis Wallinger

Members of the Ohio University community gather to play the hula hoop game in Ping Center Friday as part of the 13th annual Relay for Life.

Members of the Ohio University community gather to play the hula hoop game in Ping Center Friday as part of the 13th annual Relay for Life.

Photo courtesy of: Ellis Wallinger

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Relay for Life: A night to celebrate survival, remember loss


Students, faculty, and staff came together Friday to participate in the 13th annual Relay for Life in the Ping Center. The group remembered lost loved ones who died from the disease, but also celebrated those who survived their diagnosis.

“Relay for Life shows compassion from the students and shows that they care. The kids here tonight could be doing anything right now, but they are here for survivors like me,” said Lureen Bailey, 69, an Ohio University employee and thyroid cancer survivor who celebrated her victory on Friday by participating in Relay for Life.

Bailey was among several people at the event who have been affected by the disease, and the event also was attended by students volunteering to help and participate in the relay.

Ohio University’s Relay for Life started 13 years ago, and last year the organization raised $46,000 for the cause. This year, their goal was the same but the organization hoped to earn more.  

More than 50 teams signed up to walk in the event, each wearing a different shirt to show they were united. While one person walked, remaining teammates sat together at their table or area located within the Ping Center’s basketball court. Many of them had signs announcing which organization they represented, such as Ohio University’s Western Equestrian team, wearing green.  

The night kicked off with a “Survivor’s Lap” for anyone who has survived cancer, and it consisted of a loop around Ping Center while people cheered in celebration. Afterwards, Relay for Life officially started with a member from each team sent to Ping’s third floor to walk for the cause. The walk had one rule: each team had to have a member walking throughout the night. The team could switch out as many times as they wanted, but the team had to have a member walking.

At one point in the night while members walked, the band “Rio and Ramblers” performed for about an hour, covering songs such as The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout,” which caused several people to get out of their seats and dance.  

“I lost my mom seven years ago. I fight back for her so that others don’t have to go through what I saw my mom go through and what I saw as a child,” said Vikki Reigh, co-president of the Relay for Life Planning Committee.

“My favorite part this night is the ‘Miss Relay Competition’ where guys dress up as girls such as wearing heels and pretend to be in a beauty pageant. They’ll even go through beauty pageant questions,” noted Reigh, who was dressed in her blue Relay for Life Committee T-shirt.

Later in the evening, the Luminary Celebration was held for those who lost a loved one to cancer and allowed time to reflect and mourn. The mood was set when the lights dimmed, and people gathered around, sitting in chairs and on the floor.

Ohio University’s a cappella group Title IX performed two numbers, including Christina Aguilera’s, “Beautiful,” which created emotion for several in the room who wept.

After the group concluded its last tune, Relay for Life Committee member Leah Cornish took center stage. Reading from her typed speech, Cornish told a heart-wrenching story of her relation with cancer. She survived lymphoma cancer at a young age, and was declared officially “cured” in 2005. Her battle with cancer, however, did not end there.

Cornish, trying to remain poised, told the story of how her high school sweetheart and Ohio University student, Kyle Terrian, was diagnosed with cancer his freshman year at Ohio University and lost the battle mid-way through his junior year. Several members of the audience wiped away their tears as Cornish described how she had to watch her loved one slip away.

“I held his hand the entire time,” Cornish said.

The room was quiet as the audience watched her, and the silence was only brokenn when Caleb Stine and Bradley Parks gave speeches about their beloved friend Terrain, who passed away to cancer in December 2013.

To honor his loss and many others, the a cappella group, New Cords on the Block (NCOTB), sang Coldplay’s, “The Scientist,” which relates to loss. Also during the ceremony, singers Sana Selemon and Mackenzie Leskovec performed a duet to “In Whatever Time We Have” from the musical “The Children of Eden.”

To conclude the luminary ceremony, everyone was asked to walk around the gym where the luminary bags were placed. The bags contained a purple glow stick that shined through the bag with the survivor’s name written on the front. In single file, people of all ages walked around and took a moment to look and reflect on each bag.

Dozens of bags, each representing a person someone from the University community knew, created a realistic picture of the staggering number of people affected by the disease. Each step made in this year’s Relay for Life event represented another chance to raise support, education and attract funding to fight the disease even more.

For more information about Ohio University's Relay for Life, visit https://www.facebook.com/RelayforLifeOU.