By WARREN SCOTT
STEUBENVILLE - More than 70 cancer survivors of all ages helped to open the 2013 Steubenville Area Relay for Life Friday by taking the first lap for the annual fundraiser, which continues today at Indian Creek High School's Robert Kettlewell Memorial Stadium.
LIGHT OF HOPE — Twelve-year-old Brandon Joyce of Steubenville bore a torch as he led more than 70 fellow cancer survivors in the first lap of the Steubenville Area Relay for Life at Indian Creek High School Friday. Joyce, who underwent treatment for myeloma two years ago, also was joined by his parents, Chris and Lori; and brothers and friends. — Warren Scott
Leaders of the American Cancer Society also took time during the opening ceremonies to recognize three local schools and the Herald-Star for their support of the event, which raises funds for cancer prevention, education and research and services for cancer patients.
Relay co-chairs Kyle Elder and Jaclyn Walters presented plaques of appreciation to representatives of three local schools for events they held earlier in the year to support the cause.
They were: Edison High School, which raised more than $7,000; Indian Creek Middle School, which raised more than $2,000; and Pleasant Hill Elementary School, which raised more than $5,000.
Barbara Wilinski, a member of the Northeastern Ohio American Cancer Society board and past Relay chair; presented a marble plaque to Ross Gallabrese, executive editor of the Herald-Star, in appreciation for the newspaper's support and participation in the annual event for many years.
Wilinski said the newspaper was chosen from 13 nominees for the honor .
Gallabrese said the applause can be shared by the Herald-Star staff, particularly Janice Kiaski and Esther McCoy who, in addition to promoting the event on the paper's Community page and elsewhere, have been regular participants over the years.
He said the Herald-Star will continue to support the Relay for Life, though he hopes a cure for cancer will render that unnecessary in the future.
Groups of co-workers, students, church members, families and friends formed 250 teams for this year's Relay, with members taking turns taking laps around the stadium.
Cancer survivors of all ages carried on the Relay tradition of taking the first lap. Leading them was 12-year-old Brandon Joyce of Steubenville, a two-year cancer survivor; and his parents, Chris and Lori; brothers, Jeremy and Christopher; and friends, Cameron Wadas and Kelly Martin; and Nancy Davis, a teacher at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, where he is a student.
Lori Joyce said the school was very supportive of Brandon and he would make occasional visits there, as his health permitted, as he underwent treatment that included chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
She said Brandon was diagnosed in 2010 with myeloma, a form of cancer that affects the bones and is more common with people 60 and older.
"His is the youngest known case of this kind of cancer," she said, adding his doctors turned to specialists in other U.S. cities and abroad for their expertise.
Joyce said the cancer was discovered accidentally when he was undergoing a CT scan for an issue related to his liver. Brandon underwent a liver transplant when his liver failed when he was 3, she explained.
Despite his past health problems, Brandon was in high spirits Friday as he carried a torch at the head of the survivors' lap.
A tool used to light pathways was a fitting symbol as the lap is intended to offer hope to others diagnosed with cancer or who may be diagnosed in the future.
Another Relay tradition - the lighting of luminaria, in honor or memory of loved ones who have battled cancer, - was carried out at dusk.
In addition to such solemn moments, organizers planned scavenger hunts, sing-alongs, trivia contests and other activities to entertain participants during the overnight event.