Relay for Life: Teamwork today saves lives tomorrow
Hundreds of people filled the Eudora High School football stadium Friday night, but they were not there to watch a football game. They were there to honor those who lost their battles with cancer and celebrate its survivors at the fourth annual Relay for Life Friday night at Laws Field.
The Relay raised slightly more than $51,000 and beating this year's goal of $50,000.
Rose House of Eudora introduced the cancer survivors during the opening ceremonies, followed by the release of balloons into the sky. House, a five-year survivor of breast cancer, emphasized the importance of the event.
"The sense of community is the main thing (at the event)," House said. "Cancer is beatable. When you know that people care it makes you want to keep fighting."
House said the Eudora community does a great job supporting ill cancer patients and that the town's support helped her survive the disease.
"Self-detection saved my life, and I can't emphasize that enough," House said. "We are here to let people who didn't make it know that we didn't forget them."
Proving House's point about community support were members of the relay team, a House of Friends. team member Roshel Berthelsen said she wanted to be part of Eudora's rally against cancer.
"We're just here to help raise money," Berthelsen said. "It is our way of helping people that face cancer by showing our support for their battle."
After the National Anthem, Mayor Ron Connor, whose mother is a cancer survivor, addressed the crowd on the importance of the event.
"It's a great night for a walk," Connor said. "This is more than laps (around the track) but a journey of the heart. It is a path of memories and future hopes."
Each of the 28 teams and team captains were introduced during the opening ceremonies. Several of the teams had decorated their camps and created themes for their groups including Walking for a Blooming Cure and Kaw Valley Bank Cancer Ruff Rider.
Mary Ann Gregory, team captain of the Ruff Riders, participated in the relay for the fourth straight year. Before Eudora held the event, Gregory said the bank took part in the Baldwin Relay for Life.
"The kids have a ball and walk around the track all night, and a lot of the incentive is for little Brooke O'Grady," Gregory said.
O'Grady, a 15-year-old Eudora girl who is ill with cancer, served as the inspiration for the event during the past three years. Her current condition prevented Brooke from attending this year's Relay For Life. Several of her family members and friends served as team captains, including Ashley Moran, Hodgie's Hope, Judi O'Grady, Walking for a Blooming Cure, Nancy O'Grady, 4 Brooke and Trevor O'Grady, Take a Bite Out of Cancer.
Tyler O'Grady, Brooke's older brother, said his sister was a serious factor in the success of the Relay for Life event in Eudora.
"Brooke was one of the major pushes for this year's relay," Tyler said. "Brooke loves daffodils and that is why there is a theme centered around that. We are also wearing pictures of her."
The luminary ceremony featured candles in paper bags encircling Laws Field. After an opening prayer from the Rev. David Rabe of Holy Family Catholic Church, Josh and Jill Abel sang a special song in remembrance of their father, Don Abel, who died of cancer in October 1998.
Mary Higgins of Lawrence and Lisa DeMuth, whose 5 year old son, Levi, was a cancer patient, were the evening's guest speakers. Higgins said it is very important to let cancer patients know that you care about them. De Muth spoke about the courage of her young son, who has gone through several surgeries and cancer treatments.
Brooke O'Grady's letter was read by her sister Robyne Pippert while the audience remained silent. O'Grady, who wrote and sealed the letter two months ago, thanked the people of Eudora for their support and closed it "from heaven." Brooke, an avid Beanie Babies collector, decided to put 40 of them in the relay's silent auction.
Brooke's mom, Judi, said she was pleased to see the support Eudora has given her daughter and Relay for Life.
"I don't know what you could say any more than the attendance and the money that has been raised," Judy said. "There is an incredible turnout and a great response with more money being raised last night than ever before."