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Relay our sentiments
Cancer walk spotlights survivors
JME heroes in jail
Students talk as Joseph Martin Elementary teacher Susan Harris and Bebe Adams-Garcia beg for bond money to get out of jail. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
Cancer survivors know how significant a port removal is.
A portacath is plastic tube implanted in the chest so cancer patients can get chemotherapy medication intravenously.
Cancer survivors Charyl Eastlake and her 22-year-old son Patrick still have the scars from when their devices were surgically removed.
Eastlake said her son has turned down offers to get the scar fixed. "No, it's my badge of courage," she said he said.
The mother and son walked the first lap, the Survivors Lap, together during Friday's Liberty County Relay for Life at Lewis Frasier Middle School.
"Last year was really hard. I cried the whole way around. Last year was bittersweet," Eastlake said.  Now we're happy to be alive."
The Relay subliminally took on a battle theme as survivors carried "Fight Back" banners around the field.
After walking their lap, Eastlake and Jenna Newton, a two-year cancer survivor, even showed each other their "battle scars" from having the port removed.
The event allowed cancer survivors to connect in a way only other survivors can understand.
Those who were not survivors were on the sidelines, clapping and "cheering on our heroes of hope," according to opening ceremony MCs Tory Baker and Merilee Cox.
Since its beginning in 1985, Relay for Life has represented the world's continuous pursuit for a cure.
Col. (Ret.) John Rourke with St. Stephens Catholic Church's walking team took on a leprechaun persona to coincide with the theme.
For about 13 years he and the church have supported Relay and encouraged others to get proactive about the cause.
"I have a good time out here. It's a lot of work though," he said. "People don't realize if you're going to do this right you have to have fundraisers."
"This stuff doesn't just happen," Rouke said, pointing over to the church's display that won first place.
Tracey Moyse helped set up rest tents for children and stayed on "candle duty," making sure the glowing luminaria candles were controlled through the night.
She has had people throughout her family battle cancer, but maybe none closer than her mother, a breast cancer survivor.  
"We have to find a cure for this because it's taking our loved ones faster than any other illness in the world," Moyse said.
"There are cures out there," she said. "We just got to find them."
Relay committee member Jennifer Smith led the Luminaria ceremony.
"This is a time to grieve for those we've lost," Smith said.
The crowd gathered around the front stage as "shush angels" walked the track, helping to maintain the solemn tone of the ceremony.
"It's a time for us to reflect on how the disease has touched each of us personally," Smith said as people watched names flash on the stadium's projector screen.
And the hundreds of survivors and supporters seemed to understand when Smith's voice started breaking while she spoke.
"We love the people these luminaria represent, and we remember them, celebrate them, and fight back against this disease for them," she said.
Smith lost her mother to lung cancer.
But cancer did not have to show up in all the participants' lives in order to advocate for the cause.
Kent Smith and Cathy Boyce from Baconton Missionary Baptist Church were still walking the track 15 minutes before the conclusion of the relay on Saturday morning.
"Either you know someone who's going through (cancer)...and it very well could have been you," Boyce said.
Victoria Ten Broeck, community manager for the American Cancer Society, spoke at the award ceremony Saturday morning.
"I think it went really well," Ten Broeck said. "They should make their money goal by the end of the fiscal year, easily."
Donations and pledges of more than $125,000 had been reported by the end of the Relay and more will come in later.
"Everyone seemed to have fun," she added. "I think everyone had a really good time with the entertainment."
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