Relay offers message of hope

By Peter H. Milliken


Peggy Wilson and Mary Beth Phillips walked in memory of their sister, Kathleen Ruane-Dundee, in support of each other, and in hope for a cure for cancer in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

“Our sister fought for six years, and we feel that we need to continue in her name to raise money to get a cure for this awful disease,” said Wilson, of Cortland.

“It claimed our mother, as well, 21 years ago, so we’re committed,” Wilson said, referring to Mary Grace Ruane, who died of lung cancer.

Wilson and Phillips wore shirts identifying themselves as members of “Team Kathleen,” in memory of their sister, who died in January of multiple myeloma and melanoma.

“The fight that she gave was a long and courageous one. She handled it with grace and was inspirational to everybody she met,” Wilson said of her sister.

“Everyone has someone in their family or among their friends that has passed or struggled with cancer, day in and day out, and I think there’s strength in numbers,” said Phillips, of Boardman, a Youngstown-based PNC Bank vice president.

“I hope it sends a sense of hope, that we can’t give up the fight, that each day is precious,” Wilson said of the 24-hour Relay, which began Friday evening and continues today on the Spartan Stadium track adjacent to Boardman Center Middle School on Market Street.

Phillips said she hopes the walk sends a message “that there is hope and that, together, everyone can help support one another, whether you’ve recently had a loss, or whether you know someone that’s struggling today.”

More than 600 walkers, organized into 62 teams, are walking in the 21st annual Boardman Relay, whose fundraising goal is $200,000.

With the theme, “Once Upon a Cure,” the event here has raised more than $4 million since its inception.

The walk began with cancer survivors wearing purple shirts taking the first lap around the track.

Among the most-moving features of the event is the luminaria ceremony during which candles are lit at dusk around the stadium’s track perimeter in honor of a survivor or in memory of someone who has died of cancer, Phillips said.

There have been more than 60,000 Relay for Life events in the United States since the first one in Tacoma, Wash., in 1985.

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s largest annual fundraising event, said Tasha Wells, income development representative at the society’s Canfield office.

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