Mark Taylor
An estimated 300-400 participants walked the Wheatridge Middle School track July 8-9 in a community effort to raise money for cancer research.
By the end of the 12-hour Relay for Life marathon, $106,435 was raised to benefit the American Cancer Society’s research for a cure.
The Relay committee’s goal was to raise $80,000.
Kiley Weston, event chair, told the gathering that Relay is more than a fund-raiser. It is also about education.
“We want everyone to pick up knowledge that can change a habit and their lives for the better,” Weston said during opening ceremonies.
“Whether it is putting on sunscreen before walking out the door, getting support from ACS to stop smoking, or learning to give yourselves exams…We want to make sure that everyone out tonight having fun, but also learning preventative steps to fighting cancer.”
Hannah Miller, Gardner, served as keynote speaker and as an example of how cancer research saves lives.
In August, 2004, Miller was diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitt’s lymphoma, just as she was starting her eighth grade year at Wheatridge Middle school.
For the next nine months she endured intensive inpatient chemotherapy for cancer that had spread to her abdomen, kidneys, ovaries, liver, bones, spinal fluid and bone marrow.
Eight weeks after Miller’s final chemo treatment, she was informed by doctors that her cancer had returned.
She was then enrolled in a clinical trial for an experimental drug treatment. Her chances for survival at the time were 10 percent.
Miller said her immune system had become so depleted that she developed fungal infections in her sinuses and lungs.
She said the experimental drug treatment kept her in remission long enough for her to recover from the infections.
Later in the year Miller received a stem cell transplant.
Miller said the experimental drug treatment that saved her life was the result of research funded by Relay for Life 20 years ago.
“I would like to thank you for what you are doing,” she told Relay participants.  “…What you are doing tonight will save someone else’s life in the future.”
The Santa Fe Trails Relay for Life event includes participants from Gardner, Edgerton, Wellsville and Spring Hill. The national initiative held annually in hundreds of communities across the United States, and raises millions of dollars each year.
Teams of eight to 15 walkers and runners join with cancer survivors and honored guests for the Relay.
Participants take turns walking the track so that one person is on the track at all times.
Each team pitches a tent and decorates their campsite in a unique theme.
Funds raised locally are used to help local cancer patients.
In an average month in Johnson County, 124 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 53 people will die from the disease.
For more information on the American Cancer Society Relay for Life visit or call 1-800-ACS-2345.