The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 27, 2013

Teams gather to prepare for this year’s Relay for Life of Ashtabula County

Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Seeds were planted Saturday afternoon as organizers of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Ashtabula County prepare to spread the word that area residents are concerned about those who suffer with the dreaded disease.

Chris Rainsberg is in her third year as chairwoman of the event. “I got involved years ago through people at work,” she said.

“I have a history of cancer in my family. It is a very personal issue to me,” she said.

Almost 900 people participated in the Relay for Life last June at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds. “I think that was the highest (participation) ever,” Rainsberg said.

Sam Davison, income development representative for the American Cancer Society, said the Ashtabula County event does a great job.

“We are very proud that Ashtabula County is the highest contributing (relay) in our region,” Rainsberg said. Davison said the region includes nine counties in northeastern Ohio.

Rainsberg said the kick-off took a different tone this year in hopes of drawing more people to the event. “We just wanted to make it a party atmosphere,” she said of the games, prizes and chili cook-off held Saturday.

It wasn’t all fun and games, however, as Karen and Robert Sykes shared their story of cancer and how their family battled the disease.

Karen Sykes, formally Karen Glover of Dorset Township, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and her husband Robert was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008. Breast cancer then made another visit to Karen in 2010.

The couple came to Jefferson to share their story of faith and hope. She said that is the importance of Relay for Life.

“It’s always awesome to see people who were diagnosed with cancer that are moving on with their lives,” Karen Sykes said.

Robert Sykes said the family took three months to participate in a radiation program in Atlanta when his cancer reared its ugly head in 2008. The couple credits their faith in God and the support of each other and extended family to be cancer free at this time.

Rainsberg kicked off the event with an urging for team leaders to think big as they seek to find people to walk and contribute on June 8 and 9 at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds.

“Why do we limit ourselves to what we’ve done in the past? Why not raise $200,000 to go past $1 million for the history of the event in Ashtabula County?”

Robert Sykes one of the challenges to fighting cancer involves faith and the mind. “You have to deal with fear. It immobilizes you if you let it,” he said.