Olentangy Valley News

Olentangy Relay For Life marks its first decade

Cancer-fighting event celebrates 10 years May 9 at Liberty

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For Relay For Life of Olentangy organizers, the event's 10-year anniversary isn't an occasion to celebrate -- it's an occasion to keep up the fight.

The theme for this year's event, which kicks off at 6 p.m. May 9 at Olentangy Liberty High School, is "a decade of hope -- 10 years closer to finishing the fight."

Jill Fearon, one of the event's organizers, said Relay For Life tends to galvanize the entire Olentangy school district.

"It's just really an event that brings the community together and gives us an opportunity to celebrate the people who have battled cancer," she said.

During the 24-hour event, teams walk or run around the high school's track to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. This year's event already has raised more than $54,000.

As relay participants are circling the track, the high school will host other fundraisers for the society and ceremonies honoring the lives of cancer patients.

Fearon said the opening night of the event is always an emotional time for participants.

The relay opens with a lap by cancer survivors at 6 p.m. May 9, during which attendees can cheer on people who have fought the disease.

"The survivors are really the guests of honor of the relay," Fearon said.

This year's honorary chairmen are two cancer survivors with ties to the district.

The youth honorary chairman is Rudy Murray, a kindergartner at Arrowhead Elementary School who currently is undergoing treatment for leukemia.

The honorary chairwoman is Ashley Deck, a fifth-grade teacher at Indian Springs Elementary School who is a survivor of medullary thyroid cancer.

Caregivers will be honored during a 7 p.m. ceremony May 9. In the 10 p.m. luminaria ceremony, participants dedicate paper lanterns to current cancer patients and people who have died from the disease.

While the event has its solemn moments, Fearon said it also should be a lot of fun. To go along with the event's "decade of hope" theme, participants can decorate their campsite to resemble their favorite decade.

Visitors also can enjoy the event's other fundraisers, such as a chili cookoff on opening night and a 5K race in the morning May 10.

This marks the second year of the Hustle for Hope 5K, which begins at 8 a.m. May 10. Race organizer Karin Klekotka said 75 people participated in the race last year, with more than $1,800 in registration fees going to the American Cancer Society.

Klekotka said she thought the event would attract only 20 to 30 people last year.

"It exceeded our expectations, that's for sure," she said.

While the registration has been going a little slower than expected this year, Klekotka said she hopes to meet or exceed the number of participants from last year's 5K. Registration will be available the day of the event.

This year's race will take runners from the high school track, across Sawmill Parkway to Olentangy Hyatts Middle School and back to the high school campus. Klekotka said a police officer has been hired to control traffic in the area during the race.

Klekotka said relay organizers see the 5K as a way to bring visitors back to the event for the second day.

For more information on Relay For Life of Olentangy, email Fearon at fearjill@ hotmail.com. For more information on the Hustle for Hope 5K, visit hustleforhope.com.

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