Hiram – Less than twenty-four hours after we enjoyed temperatures in the upper 70s, teams of students, faculty, staff and community members walked amid blowing rain and snow last Friday night at the Charles A. Henry Field track at Hiram College in honor of cancer victims and survivors. Although the weather wasn’t ideal, it didn’t dampen the celebratory mood of this year’s Relay for Life event, themed, “Disney: Dream Big. Hope Big. Relay Big.” 

Survivor-lapDean of Students, Eric Riedel, a cancer survivor who kicked off the event, gave his opening remarks dressed as Woody from Toy Story. While his message and his outfit conveyed the humor that serves cancer survivors and caregivers so well, his message was a serious one. Riedel dedicated this year’s walk to both “those who are struggling with cancer, and those whose struggle has come to an end,” sharing both his own battle to beat cancer, and his aunt’s recent passing due to the disease.

As he shared his stories of beating testicular and prostate cancer, he expertly wove humor through his stories of survival when he spoke of his treatment for testicular cancer earlier in life. Humor aside, he closed by stressing the importance of events like Hiram College’s Relay For Life, bringing together the keys to successfully fight cancer – the support of family, friends, and having fun — along with the crucial role of fundraising to support research for a cure to the disease that affects so many.

After Riedel spoke, he joined a group of survivors in the inaugural lap around the track, as family and friends cheered and “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child played on the loudspeaker. The Survivor Lap kicked off the 18-hour, overnight event, which ended with closing ceremonies at noon on Saturday. Several other special events, including a Survivor Dinner, prize raffles, and a karaoke competition took place throughout the evening.

The event was co-chaired by Hiram College seniors Rose Zychowski of Lakewood and Zach Fincham of Windham, and included 151 participants on 18 teams. Event co-chair Fincham said, “It’s such an inspirational event. When you’re here, you just feel it.” And people felt it indeed – as the event raised over $11,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

ACS will use these funds to support cancer research and cancer recovery programs that benefit those suffering from the disease. To find out more, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.