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5-hour event supports those touched by cancer

BOARDMAN — When Amanda Cox reflects on her late mother, Debbie Hurite, her mind fills with images of a woman who was a bit quirky, adept at making those in her company laugh, never afraid to be herself, always willing to display patience and kindness and determined to live each day as fully as possible.

“Everybody called her ‘mom,'” Cox, of Boardman, said. “Even when she was feeling her worst, she would make sure everyone around her felt their best.”

Hurite didn’t restrict those virtues merely to family and friends, however.

Before receiving a cancer diagnosis, Hurite had taught 32 years in the Youngstown City Schools, mostly as a special education and inclusion teacher, where she impacted many additional lives, Cox added.

Hurite lost her battle with the disease May 22, 2013. She was 56.

The longtime educator also was among those who were fondly remembered and honored during the Mahoning and Columbiana Counties Relay for Life event Saturday at DeBartolo Commons outside of the Southern Park Mall.

The five-hour event, which also featured a vintage car show and luminaria ceremony, gave those who lost loved ones to cancer an opportunity to walk the track to celebrate, remember, support and honor their loved ones’ memory. In addition, survivors and caregivers were bestowed the same respect, Jen Snodgrass, an American Cancer Society senior development manager, noted.

A primary event goal was to raise $55,000 that will fund the ACS’ programs, research and advocacy efforts, she said. Programs include Road to Recovery in which volunteers drive patients who lack transportation to doctor’s appointments and for treatment, Snodgrass added.

In addition, the U.S. has more than 30 Hope Lodge communities, including one the Cleveland Clinic runs. The lodges provide a free place to stay during treatment for those with cancer. They also offer a community of support and emotional connectivity with others dealing with the same fate, according to www.cancer.org.

A large number of those who use the Hope Lodge in Cleveland live in Mahoning and Columbiana counties, Snodgrass said.

The event also featured a somber luminaria ceremony to remember those who lost their battle with the disease, along with survivors and caregivers.

Kim Deemer, an event organizer, lost three family members to the disease, including her father, Robert Constable, about 18 years ago. Constable, 72, had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died about three weeks later, she remembered.

“I’m doing this (event) in his memory,” Deemer said.

During that portion of the gathering, she also read aloud the names of several dozen people who are survivors or lost their battle with cancer as a way of remembering and honoring them.

Bob Christofil of Boardman bowed down to honor two friends, Dave and Terry, who died from the disease and whose names were among those written on the luminaria bags. He didn’t want their last names used.

Christofil, who was diagnosed in 2018, said he grew up with one of the friends and golfed regularly with the other.

Vendors included Hailey Domkowski, who has multiple family members who had been diagnosed with cancer and who runs Poland-based Hailey’s Beauty. She sells a variety of natural and customized skincare products designed to encourage people to take care of their skin and themselves.

It’s also important for those with cancer to be proud of who they are and not be ashamed of having received a diagnosis, Domkowski said, adding that another of her goals is to become certified to work more closely with doctors and oncology patients.

Also part of the offerings was a car show that featured an estimated 300 vintage vehicles, trucks and race cars. They included a sea green 1967 Chevrolet Impala, a purple 1930 Ford vehicle, a bright-yellow 1969 two-door Chevrolet, a black four-seat 1934 Ford Tudor Sedan and a 1923 Ford with a 365-horsepower engine.

Mike Adamski of Canfield, who created the Mahoning Valley Car Cruises in 2013, said the effort to raise funds on behalf of the American Cancer Society has grown since last year’s Relay for Life’s car show that had about 200 vehicles.

“This year, we’ve taken it to the next level,” via upgrading the show as well as increasing the number of vendors, awards and door prizes, Adamski said.

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