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Relay for Life held in Wellsboro

by Rebecca Hazen - July 20, 2016

Wellsboro held a Relay for Life event on Saturday, July 16, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the Green. The theme for the event was Passport for a Cure. Twenty teams were registered for the event.

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Deb Meacham, the co-chair of the event, said that their goal was to raise $96,000 for the year. At the start of the relay, they had raised $48,000.

“I used to just help at relays, but not at the capacity I am now,” Meacham said. “Since then six of my family members have had cancer. It feels great to be helping out others who are going through the same thing.”

Jordyn Howe, the American Cancer Society community manager, said, “Being a part of Relay is bittersweet. We enjoy doing this, but it would ultimately be better if there was a cure and we didn’t have to do this.”

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Throughout the day, there was entertainment provided by DJ Jay Martindale, local dance team Steps of Expression, as well as kid’s games and activities. Participants were encouraged to throw coins into the Wynken, Blyken and Nod fountain. All coins collected after the day would be donated to the cause.

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Jenn Sporer, the luminary chair, was helping to make luminary bags all day. Luminary bags could be made in honor, in support, or in memory of someone who had a fight with cancer. Each bag could be made for a small donation. The donations all went to the $96,000 goal. There was also a secondary fundraiser for canned food.

“We had 555 cans last year. Our goal this year is 700. We put the cans inside the bags with the candle sitting on top. The cans will go to the local food pantry. We think it is a great idea. We’re all about giving,” Sporer said.

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As luminary chair, Sporer said that, “I’ve learned to listen and to comfort people who just want to talk. It is why I do it.” Sporer is a teacher at Troy High School, and she was there at the relay with some of her students who were volunteering at the event. “I have luminary bags hanging in my classroom, and I think it is a great reminder to all.”

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The YaYa Sisterhood was one team at the Relay for Life Event. Team captain Amanda West said that the name came from her son Jayce, who called his grandma Valorie West “YaYa.” Valorie passed away from cancer in 2014. “After my mom died, we got a team together and it took off. It is therapy for all of us, and it gets us all together too,” West said.

The YaYa Sisterhood also has a junior relay team, for Valorie’s grandkids, and the kids of the other members of the team. They had a snake round up game, because Yaya hated snakes. People would try to fish snakes out of a pool for a $1 donation.

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Survivors at the event were welcome to spend time under the survivor’s tent. The survivor chair, Sonya Gleason, said, “The survivors are what the whole effort is about. It is great to raise money so there will be more future survivors. There are currently over 700 survivors in Tioga County.”

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Merri Leber-Perrone, from Bucks county, but owns a second home in Tioga County, was at the Relay event. Her team, Sean’s Miracle Team, was named for a boy named Sean that she takes care of as a nurse. “Sean had a brain stem tumor as a toddler and he was given six months to live. That was 16 years ago. Sean is still living and I am still taking care of him,” Leber-Perrone said. Leber-Perrone has been to 56 relays, and her goal is to relay in all 50 states. She has so far made it to seven states.

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Leber-Perrone was selling scarves that her 10-year-old granddaughter Alexandria Harris had made specifically for Relay for Life. Her original goal was to sell $100 worth to earn her Relay for Life t-shirt. But now she is over $2,000. “She asked me to teach her how to sew. We started with the scarves. She wore one to school, and all of her friends loved them. She knew scarves would make a good fundraiser for Relay,” Leber-Perrone said.

There were multiple speakers at the Relay For Live who talked about their experiences with Relay and with cancer.

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“I rang the bell at Guthrie on April 8, after being told I was in total remission. This was quite a day. There were family, friends, pastors and nurses there to clap and wish me well. Chemo was very hard on me, but looking back on my experience, I thank God for all the answered prayers. I was never scared. I put everything in God’s hands,”speaker Sandra Taylor said.

Tammy Ahles, Vice President, Community Engagement at American Cancer Society, said, “Wellsboro held it’s first Relay for Life event 13 years ago, and they were able to raise $30,000 which was pretty incredible. Now, they have contributed $1.8 million total in the fight against cancer.”

“My mom died on February 1 this year. When I think of my mom, I think of unconditional love. She would do whatever she could to help someone in need… I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to give her the help she needed. But there wasn’t an empty chair in the house. Family piled in, just like she would have done. Mom didn’t have earthly riches by any means but she had love. I have come to find out that love means more than anything else you can hold in your hand,” speaker Cindy Compton said.

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Survivor chair Beverly Bruchlacker spoke about her experiences with cancer, which touched her daughter, herself and her husband. “I look at it this way. People always ask me how I can still have such a strong belief in God. Well, who else do you lean on when everything else is fading? None of us on this earth get through without a belief in a supreme being.”

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The 12 hour event concluded with the lighting of the luminaries and a reading of all of the names that were on the bags.

The total amount of money raised towards the American Cancer Society was $74,782 at the end of the event. Donations can be received until the end of August.

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