|UPDATED 10:15am 7/24/10 Knox County residents likely didn't mind Friday's heat and humidity, or Saturday morning's heavy thunderstorm, because it gave them a chance to try and help combat something much greater than that: cancer.
The annual Knox County Relay for Life was held at the Knox College track. And while plenty of honor and recognition was given to those whose lives were lost to cancer, the feeling was that of a party, with plenty there to celebrate survivorship while raising funds for the American Cancer Society.
Co-organizer Anne Giffey says more people need ACS help than ever before.
"When you hear that 178 people in Illinois each day receive the devastating news that you have cancer, remember: hope is greater," Giffey said.
During opening stories, the crowd of walkers was moved by what was described as a different story of survivorship.
That came from Dr. John McClean, who told the story of a woman who, in 1982, died one day before Christmas after taking what then were aggressive treatments for ovarian cancer, but did what she could to be with her family for the holidays.
"With family and friends, this family slowly recovered, and regained their strength and got on their feet, and are pretty productive people this day," McClean said. "I want you to keep those survivors in mind, too, because that's my family that I just described."
McLean says he looks forward to the Relay for Life every year, and was honored to be asked to be a chairman for this year's event.
Kate Larson of rural Woodhull was also asked to speak. She's battled breast cancer and won -- a nearly six-year survivor.
Larson says anyone who's been afflicted with cancer should try to remain optimistic.
"I knew in my heart that God had a bigger plan in my life than I had ever expected," Larson said. "But I was ready and willing to beat this word called 'cancer;' because within it, there's a small word: 'can.' I CAN and will do this. I CAN beat it and win it."
Larson referred to God as the "most important caregiver" -- though she took time to recognize anyone who is a caregiver, because they're a part of what sometimes may seem like an impossible journey.
Officials were hoping to raise $140,000 through this year's Relay. As of 10:10am Saturday, officials say over over $136,000 was raised, with more yet to be collected before the end of August. Over 50 teams of walkers were registered for this year's event.
(Some of the tents and booths available at Relay for Life.)
(Abingdon High School Cheerleaders perform.)
(Knox County AmVets present the colors.)
(Ashley Lambasio sings the National Anthem.)
(Kate Larson of Woodhull, a cancer survivor, speaks during opening ceremonies.)
(Survivors were honored.)
(A couple take part in the recognition of cancer survivors and caregivers.)
(Participants in the "Survivors' Lap.")
(A child plays with a balloon following opening ceremonies. WGIL News Story and Photos by Will Stevenson.)