By Jordan Cohen

1,400 walk in Warren’s Relay for Life

Each team wore special T-shirts containing slogans encouraging public support to beat cancer.

WARREN — An estimated 1,400 cancer survivors marched around Courthouse Square on Friday evening, launching the 15th annual American Cancer Society Warren Relay for Life.

Organizers say that during a 24-hour period ending at 6 p.m. today, 1,500 people will walk throughout the Warren area trying to raise $500,000. Last year’s event raised $451,000.

“We have 96 tents on the square representing 175 teams, with 10 to 15 members for each team,” said Pam Wilson of the Trumbull County chapter of the cancer society. “They’ve all set separate goals from $2,500 to $10,000.”

“My goal is to give anybody a chance of hope,” said Shelley Straitiff of Warren, a member of the team from Warren’s First Presbyterian Church. “We’ve been doing this for 14 years, and we want to raise $5,000 this year.”

Renee Miles, 50, of Cortland, a member of the Novelis Corporation team from Howland, wore a large sign explaining her participation.

“I am walking in memory of my father, Jack L. Miles” the sign read.

“He died of lung cancer in 2004, and I started walking then and stayed involved ever since,” Miles said. She said her Novelis team has already raised $5,400 and hopes to raise $5,000 more.

Each team wore special T-shirts containing slogans encouraging public support to beat cancer.

A slogan on the shirts of the radiology department of Warren’s St. Joseph Health Center invoked the famous challenge from the film classic “A Christmas Story:” “I triple-dog dare you to find a cure for cancer,” the slogan read and was accompanied by pictures of the film’s leading characters. The movie ran continuously on a laptop inside the team’s tent.

Tom Logan of Warren, one of the event co-chairmen, was optimistic that the teams would be able to meet the goal.

“The economy has hurt us a little, but the drive of these people walking here to raise the money is phenomenal,” Logan said.

Logan also hoped that the weather would cooperate, unlike last week’s Relay for Life in Niles, which was hampered by storms and heavy rains. Marchers were able to raise more than $80,000, but fell short of their $113,000 goal. Organizers attributed that to the inclement weather that forced them to shorten the relay.

The weather did not appear to be on the minds of members of Heather’s Hope, a team named after Heather Kish of Howland, a cancer survivor who marched with other survivors in the opening procession.

“She just finished going through chemo [therapy] and was still able to finish nursing school and become an LPN while that was going on,” said her sister-in-law, Katie Kish of Warren.

“In her honor, we’re going after the title of rookie team and trying to raise $5,500.”

Other small teams reported success. The Family Crusaders from Lordstown and Warren reported raising $2,000 and hopes for another $2,500 by the relay’s conclusion.

“We’ve got something else in common,” said team member Pat Bales of Lordstown. “We’re all Pittsburgh Steelers fans,” she said and then paused. “Well, actually, we do have one lonely Browns fan with us.”

On the square, Outback Steakhouse provided free meals for all of the cancer survivors, and the Blue Iris Restaurant offered them free refreshments.

The cancer society bus made an appearance at the relay, its final stop in Ohio before beginning a nationwide tour. Survivors at each stop are asked to sign their names on the outside of the vehicle. The cancer society hopes to have several million signatures on the bus by the time it completes its tour of the continent.

The Warren Relay for Life was first run in 1994. Combined with the other Trumbull County relays, the record for contributions was set in 2005, when walkers raised more than $1 million.

Logan, who is serving his third year as event co-chairman, said he should have an estimate of how successful the walkers were by the time the event ends this evening.

“What surprises me despite the problems of our economy is the generosity of people,” Logan said. “I think we’ll do well.”

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