By Cynthia Schuster-Eakin
Residents of Avon, Avon Lake, Bay Village and Westlake scored a home run against cancer on May 31, when they teamed up to support the Westshore Relay For Life fundraiser.
Held at Westlake High School, the American Cancer Society’s Westshore Relay For Life event is an overnight celebration during which people take turns walking, running or circling the athletic track relay-style to raise funds for cancer research. This year’s Relay surpassed its goal of raising $29,000 for cancer research.
“I am thrilled to announce that we made just over $36,000 so far and still have until Aug. 31 of this year to gather more donations,” event co-chairwoman Amy Brediger said. This is the first year that all four communities have combined their efforts for Relay For Life.
“This event went over so well this year with the help of all four communities,” Brediger noted. “I am sure that by next year we will be able to pull these four cities together with even more participation than this year by getting the event information out earlier. Our attendance this year nearly tripled, with 204 team members signing up. Last year, we had 46. We are on the right track.”
Tom Jelepis, former Bay Village mayor and Brediger’s Relay For Life co-chairman, was among the speakers for the opening ceremony. He talked about his battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma that began in August 2010. “Cancer is a club that nobody asks to be in, but fortunately we’re in that club together,” Jelepis said. “We can’t just roll over. We can’t sit in a corner.”
Brediger said her own involvement with Relay For Life began three years ago after her father, Bill Hackenberg, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She said she was inspired by his determination to assist others while battling the disease himself. Brediger said her father helped to raise money and organize the first Relay For Life in Westlake, even though he was sick. He died in 2013.
The 2014 Westshore Relay For Life kicked off with the special Survivors Lap for those who have defeated cancer. Survivors joined together to walk the opening lap. Another highlight was the luminaria ceremony, or candlelight vigil, held at nightfall to honor cancer survivors and caregivers and to remember those lost to cancer.