May 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Annual Relay for Life draws 1,500 to ECHS track


Evelyn Rodgers and her daughter Kim Hollows attend the Relay for Life luminary ceremony at Elyria Catholic High School to commemorate and celebrate the life and survival of Rodger’s as well as remember her daughter Linda, who passed away from cancer. Here Rodgers and Hollows watch the ceremony.

As dusk fell Friday on the Elyria Catholic High School track, luminarias lit up the perimeter — recognizing those who have survived cancer, are currently fighting the disease or in memory of those who lost the hard-fought battle. 
The word “HOPE,” lit up by luminarias in the bleachers, told the story of many families who have been affected by cancer as the 2013 Relay for Life continued into the night.
Bobbie Sears, 63, of Elyria, is the 2013 Relay for Life survivor chairwoman.
According to Sears, approximately 100 people who are participating in this year’s relay are cancer survivors.
“We are all here for the same reason — cancer awareness,” Sears said, adding that her mother died at the age of 51 from colon cancer.
Stefanie Radachi, co-chair of the 2013 Relay for Life, said an estimated 1,500 people have attended this year’s event — by either walking or watching.
The event kicked off at 10 a.m. Friday and ends at 7 a.m. today.
So far, $30,629.30 has been raised, according to the Relay for Life of Elyria website.
“There is no certain dollar amount that people have to raise,” Radachi said. “(People) do whatever they can to help. Some have raffles or dinners. It all goes to the American Cancer Society.”
Elyria resident Sally Whitfield knows all too well how cancer can affect a person. Seventeen years ago, Whitfield, 72, was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of breast cancer — inflammatory.
According to the American Cancer Society, inflammatory breast cancer is caused by cancer cells blocking lymph vessels in the skin. The affected breast often becomes swollen with redness and an orange peel-like texture of the skin.
Despite her doctors’ persistence in undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, Whitfield gave them what she calls “an earful of Jesus.”
“They wanted me to do chemo and radiation, but I told them I am a believer in prayer,” Whitfield said Friday night.
By the time Whitfield underwent a lumpectomy, the tumor in her breast, which was a substantial size, had shrunk to the size of the tip of a fingernail.
Since she had the tumor removed, Whitfield has been in remission.
Whitfield said it gives people hope when they hear her story of survival.
“They may look dejected, but then I tell them my story and I give them hope. I want to be an inspiration,” she said. “I will continue to (be here) until God takes me home.”
For the Smith family of Lorain, being part of Relay for Life allows them to carry on the memory of a loved one — Shelley Smith.
Shelley Smith died in 2007 after a two-year battle with bone cancer. She was 17 when she was diagnosed, her mother, Roberta Smith, said Friday.
Shelley Smith attended her first Relay for Life in 2006.
“She wanted to come out here. She wanted to be a part of it,” Roberta Smith said of her daughter.
Roberta Smith said Shelley was “very social.”
“We are here because of her and for the awareness of childhood cancers,” Roberta Smith said.
The “Smile for Shelley” team has an estimated 92 members at the 2013 Relay for Life.
Family members said the death of Shelley has been the most difficult on her identical twin sister, Susan Smith.
“She has her moments,” Roberta Smith said of her daughter, Susan Smith. “They say it’s supposed to get easier. It never gets easier. We are here today to celebrate Shelley’s life and the life we had with her.”
Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7243 or

About Melissa Linebrink

Melissa Linebrink covers Grafton, LaGrange and Columbia Township for The Chronicle, and writes the "Mommy Wars" column. She can be reached at 329-7243 or Follow her on Twitter.