Area’s Largest Relay For Life Supports Cancer Research

The Friday, May 17 Relay for Life takes place in the Pratt Pavilion at the Wood County Fairgrounds, 13800 W. Poe Rd. in Bowling Green. The event is open to the public. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY
Anna Patnode, an Anthony Wayne High School junior, designed and built a wood chime display for Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Anna Patnode never had a chance to meet her grandmother, Belle Herner, before she died of breast cancer in 2002.

So, when Anna, a member of Girl Scout Troop 10179 in Waterville, began considering ideas for her Gold Award project – the highest award in Girl Scouts – she thought of her grandmother and her mom, Leah, who learned in 2020 that she, too, had breast cancer.

“When my mom got diagnosed, I knew I wanted to do something cancer-related for my project,” Anna said. “And I thought about Relay for Life. I’ve been doing relays since I was in a stroller.”

Last week, the Anthony Wayne High School junior finished building a large wood structure that will hold dozens of wind chimes purchased by participants in the Friday, May 17 Relay for Life of Wood County. Each wind chime bears the name of someone impacted by cancer, she explained.

Relay for Life is an opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives to cancer, honor survivors and raise funds for the American Cancer Society, said Brian Gibson, senior development manager for the American Cancer Society’s Northeast Region. The funds go directly to cancer research, patient services, education and prevention programs.

“Last year, we raised over $99,000. That’s the most we’ve ever raised,” Gibson said of the Wood County event, which is among the largest in the area. “This year, our goal is to cross the $100,000 mark.”

This year, Relay for Life has 17 teams, including a group of 20 Springfield High School students, and Battling for Belle – a team including Anna, her mom, sister Mary, aunt Kristen Schuchmann and other family members. For months, the teams have been raising funds. In February, Battling for Belle held a euchre tournament with 28 players of all ages to generate funds for the team goal. 

As part of her Gold Award, Anna is also promoting the event to her peers, making announcements in class and reaching out to friends impacted by cancer. Held inside the Wood County Fairgrounds’ Pratt Pavilion, the event is a great opportunity for community members to join the fight against cancer, she said.

The May 17 event begins at 4:30 p.m. with a ceremony. From 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., kids can enjoy bounce houses, games and activities. A survivor and caregiver dinner and chicken barbecue takes place from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. The evening includes western-themed activities like taking a lap around the track on a stick horse and recognizing the best-decorated cowboy hat.

A luminaria ceremony begins at 9:00 p.m. Paper bags with names on them are illuminated after dark. It’s a time to remember those who have lost their lives to cancer and to honor those who survived, Anna said.

“It’s nice seeing the whole support system and knowing that you’re not alone,” she said.

The event is a lot of fun, she said, describing opportunities to visit booths where team members work to raise funds. One is offering a chance to win tickets to Cedar Point, Gibson said. 

“There are lots of things community members can do to support the American Cancer Society,” Gibson said.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life was founded in May 1985, when Dr. Gordon Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track – a total of 83.6 miles – while friends, family and patients raised $27,000 for the society. 

Gibson began volunteering in 2000, when his friend’s mom was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“Our group tried to do what we could to make a difference,” said Gibson, who later lost his grandmother to pancreatic cancer. “During the years, I’ve lost friends and known so many people who have fought it and beat it. They’re the faces that show we’re truly making a difference. It’s so meaningful to me.”

Anna’s Gold Award project is a benefit to the Relay for Life in that she’ll be promoting the event to younger audiences, Gibson said. 

“A couple of my friends’ parents have had cancer. I’ve asked them to join the event. It’s very stress-free. People dress up and have fun,” Anna said.

Anna joined the Girl Scouts when she was in first grade at Waterville Primary School.

“I connected with a lot of people and met friends that I still keep in contact with,” she said. 

She completed her Bronze Award by teaching younger Scouts what it means to be a Girl Scout. For her Silver Award, Anna built and refurbished planters at Waterville Primary School, making a butterfly garden with other volunteers. 

For her Gold Award, Anna received donated materials from 84 Lumber and assistance from her dad, Bill Patnode.

For information about the event, search Relay for Life of Wood County, which is sponsored by Wood County Hospital, starting at https://www.cancer.org/.

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