Relay For Life in Boardman to celebrate cancer survivors, fund research

Kim Deemer is especially busy in the weeks leading up to the annual Relay For Life.

The New Middletown resident has been involved with Relay for 15 years as a participant and organizer.

Her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died three weeks after the diagnosis. “That was my reason to get involved to begin with,” Deemer said. “I felt that there was something more that we could do to extend his time.”

She, like many others, has people in her life who have battled cancer. Some of these people have lost, she said. She finds comfort and hope with other people who have had the same experiences. “Relay is more of an extended family,” Deemer said.

She’ll be found at the Mahoning-Columbiana Counties Relay For Life on Saturday. The event itself is from 4 to 9 p.m. in DeBartolo Commons at the Southern Park Mall. Registration starts at 2 p.m. There is a $10 cover fee.

All funds go to the American Cancer Society.

Events will include a walk for life, a 50 / 50 raffle, raffle baskets and a “Relay For Life Car Cruise” featuring vintage automobiles.

Patrons who bring an item to donate to the society’s Hope Lodge community will be enrolled in a $100 Amazon gift card raffle. The Hope Lodge program houses family members of cancer sufferers free of charge during treatments. A “Wish List” of items can be found on the society’s web page.

Food trucks and vendors will be on hand at the Relay as well.

While some Relays incorporate a 5K run, the Mahoning-Columbiana Relay is a walk and a celebration.

“The Relay For Life is not a race. It is more of a walk, just bringing the community together and coming together to celebrate our survivors, remembering the ones we have lost, and advocating and fighting back (against cancer),” she said.

Amanda Cox of Boardman has been involved with the Relay since 2006 when a friend in high school was diagnosed with leukemia.

“Then my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer in 2013,” she said. Stage 4 is a term physicians use to designate the spread of cancer from one organ to other parts of the body. Cox also has an aunt battling bladder cancer.

“What really is the center of the cancer society is hope,” Cox said. “Hope is a very valuable thing.”

These experiences hardened Cox’s resolve to help, she said.

“I really dedicated myself to the community,” she said. “The Relay gave me a sense that I could help.” Since 2015, Cox has been part of the Relay’s leadership.

In 2024, as many as 2 million cancer diagnoses and an estimated 600,000 deaths will occur in the U.S., according to the ACS.

At the same time, cancer survival rates have improved dramatically since the 1960s, when the survival rate hovered around 39%; now survival rates are up to 69%.

The Relay directly supports a number of ACS initiatives, including patient support and the Road to Recovery program that provides rides to treatment centers for cancer patients who cannot get there on their own.

“We always say that it is a Relay family,” Cox said. “It forges the help that people need, and it really shows you what the funds are going to,” she added. “Everyone you talk to has been touched by cancer in some way. It’s about celebrating the survivors.”

In 2023, Cox volunteered to “take a pie to the face” for every $200 raised.

Anyone wanting to get involved with Relay For Life should visit relayforlife.org/mahoningcountyoh, Deemer said. Participants can sign up as a team, a participant or survivor.

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