ISHPEMING - While most people slept last night, dedicated volunteers kept up their 24-hour walk at the Marquette County Relay For Life at the Al Quaal Recreation Area in Ishpeming.
With a record number of teams this year and an estimated 1,000 walkers, the American Cancer Society benefit was hoped to bring in more than $100,000 for cancer research.
"It really symbolizes everything," said Carl Fulsher of the ACS. "It puts names and faces to cancer. It's got something for everybody. There's moments where we cry, there's moments where we laugh. There's moments where we remember."
Certified medical assistant Brandy Copeland, left, draws blood from Lindsey Prusi of Negaunee at the Marquette County Relay For Life Saturday in Ishpeming as part of the American Cancer Society’s third cancer prevention study. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
The 24-hour relay, which began Saturday morning, finishes today and has continued to be a successful event each year in the county.
"Marquette County has always shown a deep commitment to the fight against cancer," said Kathleen Olivier, volunteer chairwoman for the relay.
That commitment led the ACS this year to make the Ishpeming relay a location for its third cancer study, which looks at the connection between genetics and the environment and cancer. Volunteer participants spent roughly 20 minutes Saturday taking a survey and having measurements and blood drawn. Over the next 20 to 30 years, they will participate in additional surveys to help the ACS learn more about the disease.
"It's a big honor we've been chosen to do this," Olivier said.
For the study participants, helping researchers to learn more about the disease that affects so many individuals and families was a big motivator in signing up.
"I'm a nurse. It's close to my heart," said Lindsey Prusi of Negaunee, shortly before having her blood drawn in the final steps of the study.
For others, the study was a natural extension of participating in the relay.
"We're here to help support them (those currently battling cancer) and to remember all the people we used to know," said Don Grisham of Marquette, who participated on the Thumbs Up relay team with his wife Kathy and their dog Abby.
The couple has been participating since 2001.
"I had a sister who died of cancer," Kathy Grisham said. "(I walk) every year as a memory for her.
"It brings tears to my eyes every year. ... We know we're doing something good to help."
As widespread as cancer is, Fulsher said the relay is a chance for all people who have been affected by the disease in any way to fight back.
"Relay people become like family," he said.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is email@example.com.