WARREN – For the first 24 years, the Warren issue of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life collected $ 8.3 million in research, treatment, and other cancer-related resources.
This year, the 25th anniversary year, "Warren Relay is to add another $ 250,000," said Philip M. O. Hara, who was the event's chairman for eight years.
O? Hara, a cancer survivor himself, says maybe The best way to say that the Relay For Life is good is the Survivor Lap, when more than a thousand survivors in purple t-shirts make the first round make the Courthouse Square in downtown Warren.
"The best stories are about the survivors, seeing the purple sea make the first round around the track still makes me shiver." He said.
"Every year the Warren Relay tries to do something different, but the main goal is to celebrate those who survived cancer and honored those who lost their lives," he said.
While the matter is serious, Relay For Life always has the appearance of a party that lasts all night Well, piece of the next day. This year, on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee, the plans for the festivities are more magnificent.
"We bring back as many of the original teams / team members as possible to honor and celebrate with them" O & # 39; Said Hara. "We also have a birthday party on Saturday to celebrate the first 25 years."
"Weather is always an issue at Relay," O & # 39; Hara said, "I was there by the snow Several heavy thunderstorms strong enough to leave the grounds and wind so hard that we had to tie the tents to a truck so they would not break.
"One Thing The Warren Relay For Life has been the largest season in Ohio for most of the years that it exists."
In Warren, Relay For Life began because a local dermatologist Looking for an event that captures both the imagination of a community and money for cancer research and awareness.
At a conference in Florida, Dr. Robert Brodell from the American Cancer Society's 24-Hour Party on "Relay For Life," a trail that began in 1
Brodell brought Warren home with the idea. In 1994, a dozen teams competed for Warren's first hastily organized season. They raised $ 28,000
The idea caught fire in the Mahoning Valley. Other relays have been created in Niles, Lordstown, Newton Falls, Liberty, Champion, Cortland and Youngstown. In the meantime, Warren's "Relay For Life" grew to become the largest in the state of Ohio and one of the nation's largest relays.
National Relay For Life, an event run by all volunteers, became the fundraising event of the American Cancer Society. It is estimated that nearly 4 million people participate in relays in more than 5,000 communities and have collected and counted nearly $ 5 billion.
Kaitlin Irgang, community development director for the North Central Region of the American Cancer Society, said, "The fact that the city of Warren has raised $ 8 million over the last 24 years is amazing to me.
" I think That many people do not realize that most of this money does not come from big donors to a wealthy population. It comes from the bourgeois everyday forces in this community who want to see a cure for cancer. The average donation size is $ 50 or less.
"Considering how hard our teams and participants have to work to raise over $ 200,000 a year, it's clear that tackling this disease has been relevant and will be for the City of Warren, because people refuse to stop until a cure is found " said Irgang.
Much of the money collected goes into medical research for cancer treatments and a cure. The squad will also help fund the Hope Lodge in Cleveland, near the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals.
"It houses cancer patients and a caregiver during treatment, for which they had to travel to Cleveland completely free of charge." Irgang said. "It saves patients millions of dollars and hours of travel each year."
"The highest percent of patients staying at Cleveland Hope Lodge are from Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Some of these people face a life-and-death situation and have no choice but to be treated in Cleveland. she said.
"I could go on about the programs and services we have, but you can find a complete list at cancer.org," she said, "What you do can not find on the website or fully understand it until you experience it yourself, is the wave of emotion that the Relay For Life brings with it. When the survivors take their laps and all you can see is a sea of purple T-shirts and the faces of so many people who have heard the words, "You have cancer", there is no other feeling in the world ,
"The Survivor Lap is a celebration of life, and for newly diagnosed patients it is a sign of hope" she said.
Pam Marshall, who led the Warren squadron for 16 years, says she plans to be back as a member of the team at Trumbull Regional Medical Center this year, where she has a medical connection. She said the reason for the squadron's success was that cancer affects just about anyone, either personally or a family member or friend.
"In short, everyone always had a reason to call in. I think that has kept the event going." Marshall said:
"It was in the community There was always a wealth of help, very enthusiastic volunteers, all with their own reasons, their own history, that's what got them engaged. " She said.
"When it started, you said the word 'cancer' and people assumed that time was not on their side." Marshall said] After a quarter of a century of discovering new treatments, mortality rates have dropped and More and more cancers are curable.
"After all the years and all the ceremonies I was fortunate to be part of, I always hugged the Survivor Lap as the most important," she said.
Tammi Penman of Warren said she will go as usual with the Howland Evangelical Methodist Church.  "We've been doing it in our church for at least 16 years, and my husband and I were involved as participants years ago." Penman said. "It's just a great experience."
"So many people from our community were affected," said Penman. "As a church, we must do everything in our power to help people, so we can help them raise money for and support research."
"My father had bladder cancer. My mother died of a brain tumor three years ago " she said. " I'll do it for her. "
And while she looks back and laughs at so many crazy things that happened at relays – Like the time when it rained so much, walkers joked about paddle boats The track – the Survivor Lap shows what it's about, she said.
"To honor only the people who fought so hard and win the fight at this time – they deserve the clapping they will get them, " Penman said.
" When it rains, those are the tears coming down from heaven for them. Tears of Joy " she said. " Rain does not stop us. "