Hundreds Gather For Miami County Relay For Life
By Kevin Gray
Around and around they went, hundreds of people, many in strollers, others moving quickly, a few running, and every now and then pushing their own wheel chairs, but regardless of individual situations, the obvious outcome was clear: fighting cancer takes money.
The weather turned off comfortable and almost chilly Friday evening once the sun disappeared behind clouds building in the west, which had many participants fearful of storms. Storms did eventually shut down Relay for Life 2011 by midnight due to lightening and rain. “It wasn’t worth the risk. We did get all the ceremonies in, so we weren’t disappointed,” said Susan Gorman, who helped out with this year’s event.
Cancer survivors, families who have lost loved ones, schools and businesses brought their teams to walk, as well as celebrate life and the lives of those lost to cancer. Osawatomie’s Swenson Early Education Center brought their Captain Underpants team. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor Cheryl Meinig walked for her own struggle, that of her brother Don Lindsey Jr. and for others both within and without the Swenson school community.
While Cheryl had taken off walking hand-in-hand with her granddaughter Kinsley Meinig, Cheryl’s sister Pam Cook of Osawatomie said Cheryl’s cancer had been caught early. “She was so lucky. We all were,” Cook said.
Then their brother, Cook said, was identified with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, stage 4. “Cheryl was found to be a perfect match as a stem cell donor, so they went to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. And this cured him,” Cook said.
Life changes for a family when someone you love is identified with cancer. “Nothing is right, nothing is normal when somebody is sick like this,” Cook said.
When Cheryl returned after several laps, she said her brother’s cancer had occurred about 15 years ago this month. “But about two years ago or so, his reoccurred. He had to be his own donor this time,” Meinig said.
Many of her family members, Meinig said, had joined the Swenson team this year. “You can’t help but feel touched in so many ways, when so many people are involved in something like Relay for Life.” Meinig said.
Near the team Bama Rama from Osawatomie stood Rachel Brown and Beth Moffatt, as they prepared for a few more laps. “Beth’s mom Kathy Moreland died from cancer last Sept. 1, so we’re walking in her memory. And for the many others who have struggled with cancer,” Brown said.
Brown said they were also walking to raise awareness for Jim Osborne. “Jim’s team is the Bama Ramas. About half of us are here for Beth and the other half for Jim. But we’re all in this together,” Brown said.
Osborne’s daughter Tessa Osborne said her father had been in partial remission and his cancer came back as a larger mass. “It is now all in his lymph nodes and esophagus. He is now back in the hospital for treatment,” Tessa said.
The Stainbrook family of Linn County, said Sondra Stainbrook Brinkman from Paola and a La Cygne Elementary first-grade teacher, has a long and unfortunate history with cancer. “My Granddad Stainbrook passed away from cancer, and, out of my dad’s 10 brothers and sisters, three have passed away from cancer. My dad Jim Stainbrook and his brother Bob are both survivors,” Brinkman said.
The cancer fight, Brinkman said, did not end there. “Last summer, we lost my Uncle Duck (Donald) Stainbrook after a long battle with prostate cancer and currently have another family member fighting cancer of the pancreas,” Brinkman said.
Having just returned from walking, Brinkman said the Stainbrook clan turned out about 30 family members for Relay for Life. “Our family has farmed around La Cygne since back in the late 1800s. What had begun as the “Stainbrook Cousins” walking ended up with aunts and uncles and friends,” she said.
Stainbrook cousin Diana Mathia said the oldest walking is about 83 or 84. “The youngest, Lane Allen, is one, and he’s riding in his baby stroller being pushed by his dad, Travis Allen, and mom Amy. We have 33 first cousins, we’re all close, and we never miss an opportunity to get together,” Mathia said.
Speaking for her cousins, Brinkman said they all felt it was time to start participating in Relay for Life. “We wanted to do what we can to help raise money for this good cause. This is our first year and look forward to trying to stay up all night! We hope the weather cooperates!” Brinkman said.
Like other banks and businesses in the area, First Option had what Pat Fagan called a joint venture of participants from each of their banking locations. “Everybody has somebody they are walking for, whether employees or family members to help them get through their fight with cancer,” Fagan said.
Music and entertainment was provided by The Awakening, a Christian Rock band, with members from Osawatomie and Paola, as well as a drum corps drum line called Sheltered Reality. Sheltered Reality from Iowa consists of middle and high school students, who travel around the United States to raise social awareness.
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