WILLIAMSTOWN - Hundreds of people filled Tomlinson Park on Friday evening for the eighth annual Williamstown Relay for Life.
"Everything is great, everyone has worked so hard and now all we have to do is have a good time throughout the night," said Elaine Bender, co-chair of the event.
This year's overnight event, which began at 6 p.m. Friday and will end at 6 a.m. today, began with the opening ceremonies that included a welcome from Mayor Jean Ford.
Cancer survivors walk the first lap around Tomlinson Park to open the eighth annual Williamstown Relay for Life on Friday evening. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
"Cancer is a devastating disease that everyone has been affected by in some way," Ford said. "Today we pause in memory of those we have lost and pray for those fighting and will continue working until a cure is found and the word cancer no longer exists."
The goal for this year's event was $48,000, which is the total raised by the small community during last year's relay.
"By the opening ceremonies, we realized about half ($24,000) of our goal," Bender said. "Half before the event even began, which is great."
Bender and her co-chair of the Relay for Life Cameron Kuntz said it does not matter if the community reaches the lofty goal this year, as long as it has done what it can to help.
"Whether we raise $48,000 or not doesn't matter," Bender said. "Every penny raised helps work toward the ultimate goal of no more cancer."
The money this year was raised by 19 teams through fundraising events throughout the year as well as activities such as selling food and games during the overnight relay.
Along with fun and games like the purse auction, corn hole and a coin toss, there was a time for reflection after the sun went down with the luminaria service, which honors and remembers loved ones who have battled cancer.
About 1,000 luminarias lined the walking path through the park this year, each with names, drawings and photos of those who lost their battle with cancer and those who continue to fight.
To pass the time between the opening and closing ceremonies, participants walked the track, played games and put on small activities. Those activities this year were a handmade pie auction, purse auction, an early morning breakfast and the Road to Recovery Grand Prix, where teams built and decorated cardboard cars to race.
"Everyone always has such a great time and people really get into the projects and activities," Bender said.
The money collected during this event, and all Relay for Life events around the country, goes into ACS grand funding, Bender said.
"The best thing about funding grants nationwide is that the progress made anywhere in the nation affects everyone in the world, so the monies raised right here in Williamstown can help billions of people," she said. "Every little bit raised truly makes a difference."
For the second year, Williamstown chose to have two grand marshals of the Relay for Life.
Ada Fetty and Ken Rasmussen, both Williamstown residents retired from Williamstown schools, wore crowns and carried toy wands to lead the first survivors' lap on Friday evening.
"I feel honored to have been asked to represent the cancer survivors and am so excited and happy to be here that I can't describe it," said Fetty, an 18-year survivor of breast cancer and four-year survivor of leukemia.
Rasmussen, who is described as a wonderful teacher and man involved with youth in the community, said he is honored to be representing other 68 other cancer survivors involved in the event in such a way.
"It is overwhelming, an honor," said Rasmussen, who is a 20-year survivor of a brain tumor as well as a survivor of prostate cancer. "I am so happy to be here and participate and to be chosen as a grand marshal is flabbergasting."
Fetty said she is happy to be alive and able to attend the Relay for Life, let alone be a full participant and honoree.
"At this time last year I was in a wheelchair and told by doctors because of the mass in my spine I would never walk again and here I am, not only standing but hoping to walk at least a lap tonight," Fetty said.
Bender and Ford remarked on how well members of the Williamstown community work together on the Relay for Life and other events.
"We see things like this as a challenge to see what we can do and the best part is that no matter what it is, we always get it done," Ford said. "We may not reach our goal each time, but we finish what we set out to do and I find that amazing for our city of only 3,000."
Bender said that in the eight years of the city's own American Cancer Society event, there has never been a question as to if it could be done.
"We don't ever have to worry about anything because Williamstown has always been so supportive and continues to be," Bender said.
Rasmussen echoed the same thoughts.
"This small community can be so proud of itself," he said. "The support I received from every member of the community has helped me in ways I can't describe.
"People often say Williamstown is like a Mayberry, but I think it is better than Mayberry could ever be," Rasmussen said.