When cancer strikes, it effects everyone around it in one fell swoop.
That’s why the annual Relay for Life in Ardmore celebrates survivors, their families and those closest to them with a day of celebration, remembrance and reflection. Kelly Fryer, this year’s event lead, also serves on the national and global level with the American Cancer Society.
“We’re here to save lives,” Fryer said to the crowd. “We talk about celebrating lives and about leading the fight for a world without cancer.”
Booths accepting donations for food, snacks, art, jewelry or games lined the sidewalk circling Ardmore Central Park. All the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society for everything from help for individual patients to cancer research.
Mercy Hospital, First National Bank, Dollar General and other groups form teams to raise money during the lead up to the event. Another team, The Warriors, raised roughly $2,000 since March.
Dollar General raised $16,000 this year.
“They’ve always been part of our event, but I’ve never seen them do what they’ve done this year,” Fryer said.
Fryer said the teams have raised $65,000, not counting the money raised during the actual relay. She said the final total will most likely be around $80,000.
“My vision is to block off downtown, bring in all the other counties and really make it the Relay for Life of Southern Oklahoma,” Fryer said. “It could be even bigger than it is now.”
During the celebration, survivors walk a lap, followed by caregivers and the individual teams. Fryer said the name of the event may sometimes give people the impression that it’s something it’s not.
“It’s really a community event,” Fryer said. “I don’t think people relate to ‘relay.’ They think it’s a 5K or that they need to have a team, but they really don’t. They just need to come out.”
This year, people had a chance to donate canned goods to area shelters in the name of a loved one effected by cancer.
“We’ve been relaying for 25 years,” Fryer said. “So we really wanted to give back to the community.”
Mary Robins has been a cancer survivor for five years, but she said her connection with Relay for Life predated her diagnosis for a year.
“To me, now, this is amazing,” Robins said. “To find out there’s support outside the hospital, because the hospital was my support group and when my treatment ended, I didn’t want to leave. But to have this makes a huge difference.”
Robins, who works as a counselor, urges her patients to get mammograms every October.
“People don’t know what to say,” Robins said. “You get a lot of support up front, but then people wander off or don’t know what to say.”
She said the most important thing a person can say to a survivor is simple: I’m so glad you’re still with us, hang in there. There’s still hope.