Reledo por La Vida honors life

On a warm, humid day in June 2003, a young woman slowly walked onto Campbell Memorial High School's football field and took the microphone.
In a strong, steady voice, Myrna Santiago spoke about her ordeals in overcoming cancer. She spoke of the surgeries, the chemotherapy and, most importantly, the love she received from her husband, Oscar, her children and her many friends.
She was a cancer survivor.
She then began the ceremonial first lap around the field's track, surrounded by well-wishers, supporters and others who had survived the disease.
That evening in Campbell marked the first Relevo por La Vida (Spanish for Relay for Life), specifically geared to the Mahoning Valley's Latin-American community.
Why here?
The state selected the Youngstown area to host Ohio's first Hispanic relay primarily because of the work the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana has done with the American Cancer Society's Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana branch to promote cancer research and education within the Latino community.
OCCHA, at 3660 Shirley Road, is the city's primary social service agency serving the Latino population.
The relays that have been held and will be held later this summer are the ACS' major fund-raising activities. The Warren relay, the largest in the state, raised more than $510,000, and the Boardman relay, the state's second-largest, raised $330,000. Both took place in May.
The relays seek to educate people about cancer, to raise awareness of the ACS' work, and to celebrate the survivors.
This year's Hispanic relay begins at 7 p.m. June 25 and continues to June 26 at Roosevelt Park on Sycamore Drive, Campbell.
What goes on
Teams of 10 to 15 people from corporations, hospitals, civic groups and local businesses take turns in the relay. At least one team member at a time walks, jogs or runs around the track.
While the relay takes place, team members camp out and enjoy entertainment, a variety of ethnic foods, games and a Chinese auction.
About 9:30 p.m., a luminaria ceremony is scheduled to honor cancer survivors and remember those who lost the battle to the disease.
Special T-shirts will be provided to all cancer survivors, and a "Celebration of Life" dinner will be provided by the Boardman Outback Steakhouse for cancer survivors after they complete the first lap.
Donations for the luminaria bags are $5, and the bags will have the loved one's name for whom it was donated placed on the front.
Each team member is asked to raise a minimum of $100 from donors before the event. Soliciting donations instead of pledges ensures that all money is collected before the June 25-26 relay.
Carol Dambrogio, ACS income development associate, said 15 teams and 17 cancer survivors participated in the inaugural Relevo por La Vida, and teams raised $15,000.
Rita Lopez of Campbell, event chairwoman, said people can still put teams together, and she encourages them to do so.
She said the major cancers detected in the Latino community are prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
"We want to emphasize that early detection is important" in trying to reduce those forms of cancer and others, Lopez said.
Co-chairwoman is Virginia Hernandez, also of Campbell.
For more information on the Relevo por La Vida or the luminaria purchase, contact Lopez at (330) 533-3040, Dambrogio at (330) 533-0546 ext. 117, or Hernandez at (330) 781-1808.
Other ACS relays planned this month are Friday and June 12 at Lordstown High School; June 18-19 at Sebring High School Stadium and Salem High School's Reilly Stadium; and June 25-26 at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds, Lisbon.

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