Rain could not deter the Cooper County Annual Relay for Life event on Friday as hundreds of participants gathered to relay for the fight against cancer. The ceremony began with lighting the 'flame of hope' by the family of the late John Ed Derrendinger at Johnston's Field House. Over $30,000 was raised prior to the event. Funds raised that night brought the total to $64,619.07 with more funds to be counted.
The Relay was celebrating 100 years of research by the National Cancer Society.
The first lap began around 6 p.m. as survivors, caregivers and individuals fighting cancer took the first walk around Johnston's Field House. Once the the lap was completed a cancer survivor gave her testimony against the disease. Debbie Wiggans said she was diagnosed with throat cancer when she went to the doctor after she could no longer talk. She said her faith helped her through the ordeal and her doctors were amazed with her recovery, calling it miraculous.
Kylie Melkersman gave testimony as a caregiver for her mother.
"You need to cherish everyday you have with your loved ones because you may not know when it is the last," Melkersman said.
Melkersman explained the ordeal when she found out about the cancer and the emotional struggle that followed. Then, for three years the cancer went into submission, but then resurfaced.
"Hearing those words again, 'your mother has cancer' is not easier than the first time, it is harder," she said.
Melkersman said her mother is still undergoing treatment and is on the road to completing her chemo therapy.
Music was provided by Tom Boyer, a western artist who is in the process of moving to Boonville after falling in love with the town. Boyer played a number of western guitar style pieces, including a pieces he composed himself.
The luminary ceremony began towards nightfall as luminaries with names of survivors were lit around the track. Names of deceased and cancer survivors were read by Craig Meyer and Kathy Cowherd. The ceremony ended with a prayer invocation by Pastor Randy Richards of the Open Bible Praise Center followed by local resident West Wendelton performing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
The following morning the relay ended with the community lap and closing ceremonies.