By Ed Runyan
At one point Friday night during the American Cancer Society’s Liberty Relay For Life, the rain, wind and cold got so bad, organizers called the 24-hour walkers from the track at Liberty High School to get inside a large tent.
Did they sit down?
No. They moved some chairs to create a makeshift walking track and kept up their pace under the tent, said Dave Elonen, a chairman of the 24-hour walker committee.
“They literally walk 24 hours,” he said. “They were here when the rain started eight or nine times. They’re still standing. They’re amazing — the character and integrity of the 24-hour walkers is amazing.”
When asked her mood Saturday afternoon just before the 24-hour ACS fundraiser concluded, Madison Zickefoose, 18, of Boardman summed it up in a word: “Exhausted.”
Zickefoose, a Kent State University freshman, was moving pretty slowly at that point but said she has covered 30 to 40 miles over the course of the 24 hours each of the past three years, but Friday night’s weather presented special challenges.
Because the temperature dipped into the 30s overnight, she was wearing four pairs of yoga pants and three hooded sweatshirts at one point and watched as hail and rain came down, boosted by windy conditions.
“It takes a strong person to do the 24-hour relay, and we have a lot of people doing the 24-hour relay,” she said.
When the event concluded, about 50 people were still circling the track.
One of them was Stanley Hunt of Youngstown, who is part of Team Jen, raising funds in memory of the wife of the owner of West Fork Steakhouse on Belmont Avenue, who died of cancer in 2011.
Hunt completed 60 miles during the 24 hours. When he was one lap away from completing the 60 miles, “I just sprinted it,” he said.
The other 24-hour walkers cheered him on.
“I got an ovation. They know what it’s like. We all do it all night, walking in the rain, and we support each other, and it’s nice. It’s for a worthy cause,” he said.
Hunt said he’ll take a day off today to rest.
Zickefoose, who said she hadn’t slept for about 30 hours, was philosophical about the sacrifice.
“Cancer never sleeps. Nei- ther do we,” she said, adding that the walkers generally have someone special giving them strength on the track. In her case, it’s Bruce Fadely, a close family friend who died last August and an aunt who died of breast cancer.
“I promised my aunt I’d do it for her,” Zickefoose said. “During the relays, we always know someone’s watching over us, and they’re with you no matter what.”