At West Jessamine Middle School, it was a celebration of those who had survived but also a somber bereavement for those who had lost their battle with the disease.
“My mom died of cancer in 2007,” former Nicholasville resident Kevin Davis said. “But this is my first time out here at Relay for Life, it wasn’t until a friend told me that I found out I wasn’t alone.”
The middle school’s parking lot could barely hold the cars, most of which were also packed with people ready to take part in the annual 12-hour-long walk and cancer-survivor celebration.
Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer said he was proud to see the event was the biggest it has ever been.
More than 40 teams were there to take shifts during the walk and were made up of local businesses, churches, families and friends. Along with those teams came a swarm of children who just wanted to enjoy old-fashioned ice cream and games, but underlining the celebration was the gravity of cancer and its effect on hundreds of people’s lives.
“Isn’t it amazing to think we’re a part of an international movement to end this disease?” Jessamine County’s Relay for Life event chair Elisa Smith said. “And it all started with just one volunteer.”
Smith said that everyone who came out Friday night was united with cancer survivors and fighters across the world.
“We want to make a difference in the fight against cancer, gathered as a community, determined for those who are facing cancer, they will be supported,” she said. “Those who have lost the battle will not be forgotten, and together we will fight back so that one day no one in Jessamine County will hear those dreadful words, ‘You have cancer.’”
Not everyone there was directly affected by cancer but were there to support those in the community whose lives had been altered by the disease.
“We came out because we knew this was for a good cause,” said Tim Stombaugh, Boy Scouts leader of Pack No. 45. “We’re just glad to be out here, be able to help a little bit and do what he can.”
Stombaugh is not only a scout leader but the father of 5-year-old Andy, whom he brought out to help label the luminaries that circled the track.
The Boy Scouts were not the only ones to pitch in as Jessamine County Girl Scouts troops 906 and 1090 made the presentation of the flag to mark the beginning of the cancer-survivor celebration.
There were several events throughout the night, but it all centered around honoring survivors and remembering the lost.
The grand marshal of the relay was 6-year-old Lily Ann Foster, who was surrounded by friends and family in blue T-shirts with her name on it.
Foster, who beat cancer just six months ago, was the first to be called by state Sen. Tom Buford and walk through the survivor’s archway and be given a purple flower and balloon.
Supporters from the different teams walked all throughout the night while event coordinators set up a cornhole tournament, Zumba class, line dancing and Jazzercise to keep the crowd lively.
“I’m here to support all the cancer patients and those who survived and those who’ve passed away like my grandmother,” first-time Relay for Life attendee Gina Villanuena said. “Being here ... It’s just heartwarming. It makes you feel good.”