Emotions ran the gamut Friday night at Central Park during the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life fundraiser. As if emotions were colors, everywhere one looked there was a multi-hued reminder of how cancer has touched people’s lives.


Bright purple shirts worn by survivors were a beacon of hope and a badge of courage for those who have battled the disease and won. Neon green shirts worn by the Andi’s Dandies team featured a festive curly font and some big daisies, bringing a touch of whimsy and light to a dark journey. Even the color black made an impression when accompanied by the words “Ask Me Why I Walk” on the front and names on the back representing each team member’s personal connection to a disease that touches so many.


Emotions ran the gamut Friday night at Central Park during the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life fundraiser. As if emotions were colors, everywhere one looked there was a multi-hued reminder of how cancer has touched people’s lives.

 

Bright purple shirts worn by survivors were a beacon of hope and a badge of courage for those who have battled the disease and won. Neon green shirts worn by the Andi’s Dandies team featured a festive curly font and some big daisies, bringing a touch of whimsy and light to a dark journey. Even the color black made an impression when accompanied by the words “Ask Me Why I Walk” on the front and names on the back representing each team member’s personal connection to a disease that touches so many.

 

And at dusk, the flickering yellow glow of luminaries that lined the perimeter of the park illuminated names in memory or in honor of those on cancer’s roll call.

 

The full spectrum of emotions and colors filled the park from the opening ceremonies, when mom Julie Reuter talked about her 5-year-old daughter Andi’s battle with cancer, to the early-morning hours Saturday when teams packed up their campsites to go home. With a glance in any direction, the significance of the event was ever present on people’s minds.

 

There were cheers and there were tears — and a little bit of everything in between — as southern Oklahomans gathered together to remember and to celebrate.

 

Little Andi Reuter stood next to her mother on the Central Park stage, a breeze blowing through the mass of blond curls on top of her head as Julie talked about Andi’s battle with kidney cancer.

 

Later, the two walked together during the first lap around the park with other survivors as their family and friends cheered them on from the sidelines.

 

Once the lap was finished, Andi switched from her purple survivor shirt to the neon green shirt of her teammates. Around her neck, she wore a silver bell, memorializing one of the greatest moments of her life, so far. On 9-9-09, Andi rang the bell at Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City, signifying that she is now cancer free.

 

Julie said she owes her daughter’s life to people who donate funds to events like the Relay for Life, and for other unselfish parents who years ago allowed their own children to be part of clinical trails so that a cure could be found for Andi’s type of cancer.

 

“I was in the hospital with other parents whose children were probably not going to be OK,” Julie said. “It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also encouraging to know that new treatments are being discovered all the time.”

 

While some people credit medical science for beating cancer, Aftann Patton claims a miracle for being alive. Diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer at age 9, she was sent home with only a 13-year life expectancy.

 

Now, an 11-year survivor, she celebrated her life Friday night, and prayed for another miracle for her 2-month-old daughter, Lexi, who may have the same type of cancer.

 

Lexi had already gone home by the time events got in motion at the park, but Aftann’s other children — 5-year-old Lyndon Redman and 3-year-old Mia Patton — were at her side, proclaiming loudly their mother’s victory over cancer with shirts that read “Product of a Survivor.”

 

“I had two diseases, bone cancer and bone disease,” Aftann said. “One needed chemo, the other needed radiation and I couldn’t do them both at the same time. Instead, I got a miracle.”

 

Her mother, Sharen Hale, is also a survivor and said prayer is what saved her daughter.

 

Across the park, a large banner labeled “Wittner’s Warriors” graced a table where team members in black shirts sold a variety of food. The fronts of their shirts urged others to “Ask Me Why I Walk.” team captain Amanda Wittner said it was a way to get people talking about an important issue.

 

“Most of the team is people I work with,” she said. “Each of us got to put names on the back of our shirts in memory of or in honor of someone we know with cancer.”

 

Amanda said she, personally, has lost five family members to cancer and being involved in events like Relay for Life is her way of making sure her children don’t experience the same pain.

 

“It’s just very personal to all of us,” she said.

 

Top 5 Teams:
1. First National Bank — $10,031.80
2. Noble Energy — $6,339.15
3. Smith Carney & Co. CPA — $5,627
4. City of Ardmore — $3,043.14
5. Andie’s Dandies — $3,022