SIDNEY — The Relay for Life of Shelby County kicked off with sunshine, smiles and more than $20,000 ahead of the $50,000 goal.
“We’re so excited that we’re allowed to be back out here, and we can finally Relay again. Even taking off one year was not good. How many cancer survivors didn’t make it because we had to shut down one year? I never want to do that again,” Rhonda Pence, leader of the team A Family Affair, said. “We’re back, and we’re back with a vengeance.”
Pence, who is a breast cancer survivor, has participated in Relay for Life of Shelby County since it started more than 20 years ago. The first year for Relay came after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and was given only a few months to live. Pence’s mother is still alive today, 21 years after her initial diagnosis.
“What if it’s my dollar — what if it’s my walk around the track — that makes that difference for a cure,” Pence said.
Over the years, cancer found its way to many of Pence’s friends and family, including her father, who lost his battle with lung cancer, her younger sister, Alicia, who lost her battle with melanoma, her stepmother, who lost her battle to lung cancer, and many cousins, her father-in-law, sister-in-law and friends — all of whom have lost their battle with cancer. Pence remarked during the opening ceremonies that she doesn’t have enough fingers and toes to count all the people she’s lost to cancer.
“This horrible disease has got to be stopped. I can’t even mention how many dear to me are still battling,” Pence said.
Pence’s own diagnosis came in 2016, just a month after that years’ Relay. At one point in her treatment, she was so sick that the doctors stopped her treatment and told her husband that there was nothing they could do, and it would take a miracle to help her.
“I believe in miracles, and I got one. I still take a daily chemo pill every day, just to keep it from coming back, even though they say I’m in remission right now. Cancer has affected so many people that I know and love, and it’s inspired me to stay with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event,” Pence said. “I’m participating to inspire hope for those facing the disease and raising money for the ACS event to help save lives from cancer.”
As of the opening ceremonies, A Family Affair had raised $19,535 of the $70,405.36 total — above and beyond the goal that ACS set for Relay for Life of Shelby County. Pence herself had raised $11,566 as of the opening ceremonies, ranking as the top participant. The funding that Relay for Life of Shelby County will go toward cancer research and resources for those affected with cancer.
“This is just phenomenal. We’re totally shocked that it is right now,” Pence said. “The community is out, and they really know how to support this organization.”
Thirteen teams participated in Friday’s Relay and included Ferguson Construction Co., Connection Point Church, Sidney First United Methodist Church, Minster High School Student Council, Feathers of the Phoenix, Wilson Health, Chelsea’s Squad, U.S. Bank, Mutual Federal, Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club, Shelby County ELT, and Beanz.
“Relay for Life is not only a fundraising event to create a world free from the pain and suffering caused by cancer, but it is also about a community uniting together to take action for life-saving change. Why do we Relay in Shelby County? Because we have hope for a future where cancer never steals another life, and we know that the potential to make that possible can only happen when we take action,” Mark Kaufman, associate pastor of connecting and missions at Connection Point Church of God and master of ceremonies, said. “In Shelby County, we will not stop until there is a cure.”
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