Hiram – Every year, more than four million people in 20 countries take part in the Relay For Life movement — the world’s largest fight against cancer. Relay For Life, whether a community or student event, offers a wonderful opportunity for cancer survivors and caregivers to be recognized and supported. In addition, the Relay For Life movement raises more than $400 million globally, which the American Cancer Society uses to fund cancer research. In addition, a portion of the funds is allocated to provide free information and services to cancer patients and their caregivers.

Recently, a Relay for Life event was held at Hiram College that raised over $11,000. But it raised so much more than just dollars — it celebrated the hope of local cancer survivors like Dottie Summerlin.  “I was asked to be the Honorary Survivor a few months ago by Brittany Jackson at Hiram College,” explained Summerlin, who retired from Hiram College last July. “It was such an honor.” She spoke about her experience battling the disease at the opening event. She also took time during her address to remember Hiram Biology Professor Matt Hils, who succumbed to the disease last year.

Afterwards, she had the honor of leading the survivor lap to the tune of “Happy” by Pharrell. “It was so cool to see everyone lined up along the track, applauding while I walked along with my family.” Her husband Brian, daughter Jodie, grandson Philip and former co-worker and fellow survivor Dorothy Meyers joined her in the first lap at the track that morning.

The event also provides an opportunity to raise awareness for routine, often life-saving check ups. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago,” Summerlin shared. “I had just had a mammogram in the spring that came back “all clear”, but my family doctor discovered a lump during a routine physical later in the fall.” She underwent surgery, where two tumors were discovered. Each contained a different type of cancer, but both were successfully removed. Summerlin underwent six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments before she was deemed cancer-free.  Then, two years ago, she had another surgery to remove suspicious tissue that was discovered during a routine mammogram. Summerlin, the vibrant wife, mother and grandmother, is now cancer-free once more.

She was honored to read a poem during the Luminary Lap, during which candles are lit inside personalized paper bags around the track in tribute to those affected by cancer. Summerlin shared, “It’s so cool, because the lights are dimmed and we walk in silence with soft music playing.  It’s a time of remembrance and reflection for those who lost their fight, hope for those going through treatments, but it also celebrates those who have survived.” When the lights came back up, the group walked the Closing Lap to the tune of “Happy,” and they truly were, since the event raised over $11,000.

At Relay For Life events, communities across the globe come together to honor survivors, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against cancer.  Relay For Life teams take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground. Events are up to 24 hours long, and because cancer never sleeps, each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times. Additional Relay for Life events are scheduled in surrounding communities; Chardon, Burton, and Ravenna events will be held on 5/15 and 5/16; Chagrin Valley, Hudson, Aurora, and Twinsburg events are scheduled for 5/30, 6/5, and 6/6. To find a Relay for Life event near you, visit relay.acsevents.org or call 1-800-227-2345.