Bonding for life: Annual relay brings people, teams together to fight cancer
Weeden and Pinnow met during chemotherapy treatments in 2006, after they both were diagnosed with breast cancer. During their recovery, the friends decided to get twin pink ribbon tattoos, which symbolize their fight against breast cancer.
"We were bald together, and now we've got tattoos together," Weeden said.
Weeden and Pinnow were two cancer survivors among about 500 people who walked at the fairgrounds Friday and Saturday at Relay for Life, a fundraiser through the American Cancer Society. The all-night event centered on themed walks, entertainment and food, and allowed people to celebrate cancer survivorship.
Money raised by teams and sponsors at Relay for Life events supports the American Cancer Society in research, education, advocacy and patient services.
Some relay teams, such as "Nancy's Nomads," were seasoned veterans. The team has entered area Relays for Life for the last eight years.
The team's captain, Janesville resident Nancy Restivo, recounted her first relay. She was going through chemotherapy to treat one of three bouts of cancer she's had in the last several years. She remembers someone offering her a wheelchair.
"I said no. It was pure stubbornness. I was hurting, but I walked. I figured if they put together a team, I'd stick it out," Restivo said.
Other groups at the relay sponsored themed events to raise money in the fight against cancer.
Beloit resident Brian Reece, who runs Blue Ribbon Classics Car Club, brought a junked car to the relay. For a few dollars, people could bash the car with hammers.
Reece said his car smash benefits cancer research while giving people who've been hit with cancer a chance to hit back.
Arianne Videgar took a sledgehammer to the rear end of Reece's car, smashing in a fender where she'd written "lymphoma" with a marker.
Videgar was still holding the hammer as she talked about how her dad, Reg Videgar of Janesville, a lymphoma survivor, was told in 2009 he had just a month to live.
"You're angry when you find out," Videgar said, her voice shaking. "It's an evil illness."
The relay had some newcomers, such as Janesville resident and breast cancer survivor Joan Brayer.
Brayer was clad in a ball cap and a Boston Red Sox jersey. She carried an assortment of autographed baseball bats in a bag slung over her shoulder.
Brayer had both breasts removed after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. She's been in remission for 10 months.
"I'm just a rookie in the breast cancer league," Brayer said.
A longtime baseball fan, Brayer decided to fill several baseball bats with autographs of everyone who's helped her in her fight with cancer.
Brayer's prized bat is a pink Louisville Slugger. It's a gift from the staff at Mercy Hospital, where she's had cancer surgeries and checkups. The whole staff signed it.
"They're the most important autographs I've ever obtained," Brayer said.
The Janesville relay netted about $65,000 in donations from teams, individuals and sponsors, said American Cancer Society spokesman Adam Layne. That's $4,000 more than the Janesville relay raised last year, he said.
Layne credited nice weather Friday night and early Saturday.
Janesville resident Tim Brown, co-chairman of the relay, said he'd be happy if proceeds from the event helped just one family dealing with cancer. Brown and his wife, Tammy, lost their son, Drew, to leukemia in 2007.
Brown said Relay for Life is about more than money. It allows people to celebrate life after cancer.
"It's an experience. There's tears. There's companionship. There's laughter. This is where friendships are made," he said.