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Relay 'touches heart and soul'

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:45 PM

WILLARD Emotions ran high Friday night at Willard Middle School.

Tears, smiles, hugs and a general togetherness were all part of this city's Relay for Life event.

"There's a bond between the survivors," said Dee Walkup of rural Willard, who is a cancer survivor. "It's something I needed to do. It's nice to come back to the place I worked for 19 years and give support. This is very emotional. It touches your heart and soul."

The event's goal is to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.

"It's about education and detection," added Katie Rosenbalm, of the American Cancer Society.

The relay raised $43,672 a year ago. The goal for this year is $46,000.

"I'm optimistic," said Deb Schaffer, event chairperson. "We had a pretty good bank night and we were more than half way to our goal a week ago."

The first lap was walked by survivors, who were greeted by a round of applause.

"It's good, it's good," said a very emotional Gypsie Holida of Willard.

Schaffer said Friday's event was the 11th relay the Willard community had participated in. There were 14 teams involved.

The relay was supposed to take place outside at the Willard High School track but was moved indoors instead.

"We did decide this Thursday morning," Schaffer said. "About five years ago three individuals were struck by lightning and two had to be Lifeflighted. We saw the possibility of inclement weather and are happy with the decision to move it."

A couple of storms did move through the area Friday afternoon.

Cancer survivor Irene Hicks of Plymouth was part of Friday's event.

"It's just getting together with the other survivors," she said. "Yeah, it's emotional."

"It's about hope and raising funds," said Mary Lou VerBurg of Willard. "We need support from one another."

The event included a survivor's dinner, cornhole tournament, live band, blood drive, raffles and closing ceremonies and awards.

At 10 p.m. Friday, a luminary ceremony took place, with the walkway being lit by relay committee members.

Friday's theme was "50 states mapping our way to a cure." For example, Willard Mercy's team, "Medical Miracles," chose the state of Wyoming and featured a Western theme that included activities like jail and bail, a squirt gun game for children and an open camp fire.

The relay will conclude at noon today.

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