Residents rally at relay to fight cancer
They marched. They danced. They sang.
They feasted on barbecue, raffled vacation packages and lit hundreds of luminarias. They blew on flutes, clarinets, trumpets, saxophones, trombones, baritones and tubas. They strummed guitars and banged on drums.
One guy played bagpipes.
About 175 folks turned out to play one role or another in the second annual Superheroes Fishing for a Cure Relay for Life cancer walk at Roberts Point Park on Friday and Saturday, April 27-28.
"It went really well," said Lynne Ahlstrom, chairman of the event. "It was a great turnout, we had a lot of new teams and raised a lot of money, so we're really happy."
At last count, Ahlstrom said, the event had raised nearly $36,000, and more money still was coming in at press time.
In addition, Ahlstrom said, some relay teams started fundraising a little later than normal, and other Port Aransas fundraisers in recent weeks may have been a factor in the slightly lower tally.
Still, local Relay for Life organizers were happy with the results, overall. Port Aranans raised more money per person than any other Relay for Life event at least throughout the Coastal Bend and perhaps in the entire state, Ahlstrom said.
Some 3.5 million people have taken part in recent Relay for Life events in 4,800 communities around the nation, according to the National Cancer Society.
The First American Eagles from First American Title Insurance Co. raised more money for cancer research than any other team in the Port Aransas event - about $7,400, Ahlstrom said. The Eagles raised the most money last year too.
Port Aransas High School senior Leah Matthews opened the ceremonial portion of the Relay for Life by singing the national anthem. The Rev. Richard Safford, pastor at Community Presbyterian Church, led everyone in prayer.
The Brundrett Middle School band played several fitting selections, including the theme from the movie "Superman." They played at Patsy Jones Amphitheater - a venue named after a Port Aransas musician who died of cancer some years back.
Playing later at the amphitheater was the band Triggerfish. Two members of the band said they lost their fathers to cancer.
Port Aransas High School seniors Leah Matthews, Jilian Bartlett and Mary Teller sang "I Will Survive" and "Wind Beneath My Wings." To great applause, they sang the songs a cappella after a sound system with backing music failed.
Led by a bagpipe-wielding Port Aransas City Councilman Rick Pratt, about 30 cancer survivors walked a few laps around the park to help kick off the Relay for Life in earnest.
Among the survivors in the walk was Debby Kalke. Earlier, Kalke addressed the crowd, reading an essay about how the all-night relay symbolizes the experiences of many cancer patients.
"As the evening goes on, it gets colder and darker, just as the emotions of the cancer patient do," Kalke said.
"Around 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. symbolizes the coming of the end of treatment for the cancer patient. Once again, they are tired, but they know they will make it," Kalke said. "The sun rising represents the end of the treatment. … They see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that life will go on."
After the survivors walked a few laps, caregivers and other supporters joined in. Then the Relay for Life teams began walking, and they hoofed it for the next 12 hours, round and round the park, all night long without stopping.
Rosalie Johnson, of the First American Eagles, was one of those who walked during the wee hours.
"For me, it was great, because I think it was a great cause, and it didn't matter what time I walked," said Johnson, whose father in law, Frederick James Johnson, died of lung cancer eight years ago. "I was energized by the music and everything going on."