PARKERSBURG - Despite cool temperatures and rain, the 21st annual Wood County Relay for Life got off to a rousing start at City Park Friday.
John Chalfant, co-chairman of the relay, said weather is something the relay has dealt with in the past and it does not deter participants from coming out to continue the battle against cancer.
"There is still a lot of enthusiasm from the survivors, which is what I think the service is all about," he said. "There has been a lot of work by the teams and still a lot of teams are set up here at the park."
Four-year-old Amyrah Donaway of Parkersburg, diagnosed with t-cell lymphoma in January, listens to the opening ceremonies as a team member with Amyrah's picture on her shirt stands above her. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
Monique Stephens, a 16-year survivor of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, communicates through hand gestures with her 15-year-old pet, Katie. Her dog is itself a three-time cancer survivor. The two were waiting on the opening ceremonies of the Relay for Life to begin Friday. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
The drum line from the Parkersburg High School Big Red Marching Band warms up to lead the survivors parade during the 21st annual Wood County Relay for Life in City Park. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
Duane Miller applaudes for cancer survivors participating in lap one, known as the Survivors Lap, during Friday's opening night of the annual Relay for Life at Parkersburg's City Park. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
Angela Jones, left, and Lori Ullman-Wright, center, put a sash on Julie Nutter, the grand marshal of the 21st annual Wood County Relay for Life survivors parade in City Park Friday. (Photo by Jeffrey Saulton)
To his knowledge, Chalfant said no teams pulled out of the relay event.
"A lot of the teams still came out because earlier in the day it was a nice day," he said. "I don't think we are missing too many."
Angela Jones, co-chairwoman of the relay, said the weather would not stop the relay.
"Rain, sleet, snow or shine, we are here to relay and this is going to be the best celebration we have had in this park in many, many years," she said.
Julie Nutter, 45, of Little Hocking was the grand marshal for the relay. She said she was honored to be chosen to lead the survivors parade.
"I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 31 years old," she said. "I was pregnant at the time and the doctors said I needed to decide if I wanted to abort the baby before chemotherapy or wait until the baby was delivered."
Nutter said she waited to deliver her daughter. In 2013, Nutter said, she was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time.
Nutter said there were timers she did not think she would be able to make it.
"Theodore Roosevelt said 'when you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on,'" she said. "I thought so many times we get so weak and get so tired we can't even tie that knot.
"During those times I encourage you to let someone else tie that knot for you and then you hold on for dear life and don't let go - keep fighting."
Nutter said she credits the strength to get through the disease to her faith.
"I wouldn't be able to stand here today without giving praise to the Lord Jesus Christ for what he has done for me," she said. "Because of him I can stand here and be at peace with everything I've gone through."
Nutter and other survivors rode the first lap in cars led by the color guard from the Parkersburg High School Navy Junior ROTC and the drum line from the Parkersburg High School's Big Red Marching Band.
Several teams set up around the park to continue to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. One of those was from Cornerstone for a Cure.
"So far we have raised $5,000 for our team," said team member Gail Santee. "We have had sales, Bingo and wearing jeans on Friday for the cause."
Karen Halley, a team member, said this was the team's fifth year in the Relay for Life.
One survivor in the parade did not need a ride. Vicki Wolfe, of Parkersburg, provided her own in a motorized scooter.
"I'm a 57-year-old survivor," she said. "I've been cancer-free for 30 years. My cancer was oral cancer and my grandfather had the same thing."
Because of the wet weather, Chalfant said the annual luminaria service has been postponed to 8 p.m. Sunday. He said a number of luminaria were set out around the park pond Friday and they were damaged by the rain.