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June 8, 2014

Survivors and community members gather for relay

DUNCAN — Survivors, caretakers, family, friends and the Duncan community pulled together Friday to celebrate the  battle against cancer.

From 6 p.m. - 3 a.m., the 2014 Relay for Life took place at Halliburton Stadium. A sea of white and purple shirts stormed across the track, celebrating the struggle as well as the future for survivors.

With a goal of raising $120,000 for the American Cancer Society, Event Chair Ronda Rakes, her team and all attendees raised about $84,000. Donations for Relay for Life will be accepted until July 31.

Different camp sites were set up along the track, including t-shirt vendors, a snow cone stand, Dunk the District Attorney dunk tank, and many others. Each camp site handed out goodies to survivors as they completed the survivor stoll from 6 - 7 p.m.

At 7 p.m., the opening ceremony started. The presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, performed by Keith Woods and his family, all preceeded Mayor of Duncan Gene Brown’s proclamation.

Melissa Hogan, a cancer survivor, shared her story at the opening ceremony. Her family has been through a landslide of unfortunate events, including her recent battle against a rare form of tongue cancer, but she shows strength in everything she does, both for her family and for herself and views her and her family as blessed.

Pat Bowles, a two-time cancer survivor as well as a member of the Relay Board, passed her namesake award, Pat Bowles Spirit of Relay Award, onto Jerry Phelps. He was the first male recipient of the award, as well as the first non-committee member to receive it.

Following the opening ceremony, survivors and caregivers hit the track for the victory lap. Survivors received purple balloons while caregivers received white balloons. Rakes led the crowd around the track and led the balloon send off.

Rakes said that this moment is something she will carry with her forever.

“Looking at the circle of survivors and caregivers in the middle of the field and watching the release of the balloons... I think it drives home the point that no one is exempt, that cancer touches everyone. The view of all those people standing in a circle looking at all the other survivors and caregivers that they don’t know makes them hopeful because others have succeeded,” she said.

For $5, attendees could make their own bracelets. For every lap around the track, a bead was awarded. Every fourth lap, a black bead was put onto the bracelet, marking a mile walked for the survivors.

Danielle Sims, who has been participating in Relay for Life for five years, said that she attends to help make a difference.

“If I got cancer, I hope someone would relay for me,” she said. “It’s a good cause. I see a lot of people on my team and that I know in life that have this and it makes a big difference.”

Throughout the night, attendees were invited to take part in various activities, such as a frozen t-shirt contest, the illumination of the luminarias, musical chairs and a balloon race.

The Relay for Life committee will begin to plan the 2015 festivities in the fall. For more information, contact Rakes at 580-483-8567 or Lyndse Tatum, the ACS representative at 580-353-8145.

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