MIDLOTHIAN – Those who have beat cancer and some whose fight has just began joined in with the many volunteers who participated in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Midlothian’s annual event Friday night.
The chill of the evening did not dampen the spirits of the more than 100 participants who gathered at the Frank Deale Jr. football field for the 12-hour relay.
“This is our eighth year for the relay,” event committee chairman Jeremy Morton said.
Morton said his committee has been planning this event for the past seven months.
“There were a lot of meetings, text messages and emails that went into putting this event together. The results were we have met and will exceed our $60,000 goal,” Morton said.
“I was diagnosed with cancer my freshman year at Mansfield Legacy High school. I was looking forward to four years of a successful softball career as a pitcher. I had a really good average and was looking to improve it. Instead, my next four years was a fight for my life battling cancer,” said Rachel Hanna as she opened Friday’s event.
“This year I will be celebrating two birthdays, my 21st birthday and my fifth year of being declared cancer free,” Hanna said.
“Stories like Rachel’s are why we do this. I want to give back to the community for the support they have shown our survivors and show those who are now battling they can win the fight,” Morton said
The Survivors Walk honors those who have battled cancer. Donned in their purple survivor’s shirts, they were joined by supporters and helpers to make the celebration lap. Among those were friends Paulette England and Ronnie Mullins.
“We have been friends for many years. This is our second year to make the walk. I am a 10-year survivor and he is an 18-year survivor,” England said.
The two were joined at the finish line by Mullins’ wife Linda Mullins.
“He has been a very good patient all along the way,” Linda said.
Following the Survivors Walk, 14 teams took to the track for the 12-hour relay. The teams were sponsored by many businesses, churches and organizations. Team names included “Racing for the Cure” by the Midlothian Classic Car Club, “Cowboy Church Crew,” the city of Midlothian’s “Racing for Cure” and “Lisa, Fight Like Girl” took to the track.
Midlothian City Manager Don Hastings said the city’s team was out celebrating two anniversaries.
“This is the city’s 125th birthday and the American Cancer Society’s 100th,” Hastings said.
The city’s team was headed by team caption John Taylor.
Under the tent with the team banner “Lisa Fight Like Girl,” sat Lisa Browning wrapped up in several layers of blankets to stay warm. She positioned her chair right up to the track’s edge.
“I’m going to stay here as long as I can hold up to support the team,” Browning said.
Browning, surrounded by many of her team supporters, completed her fifth chemo session Friday.
“It makes me really tired, but I had to be here,” Browning said.
Morton, an employee of the Midlothian Independent School District was diagnosed in March of this year.
“Following surgery, she immediately began her chemo treatment,” said her husband Wayne Browning.
“We are a very small office and are like a family. We always try to support and help each other,” coworker Kim Melton said. “When the date of the relay was announced, we decided to put together a team to show Lisa we love her and support her.”
The support team became more than 15 of Browning’s coworkers in the administration building, their spouses and friends.
“Designing her team T-shirt, we included her favorite Bible verse from Isaiah 40:31,” Melton said.
While Browning cheered her team across the field the Midlothian Classic Car Club celebrated Natalie Megonigal’s fourth year being cancer free.
Megonigal is the daughter and granddaughter of members of the club.
“She has been around cars and loved them since she was around 6,” Alan Chron said.
“When she was in treatment at Children’s Hospital we would all go up and see her. It was then we found other children like her that need support also. Now we go at least four times a year, on the holidays that no one else goes. We are regulars and some of the children that remember us want to be here when we come,” Chron said.
As the teams began their walk, luminaries were being lined up around the track’s edge. Each liminaria had the name of either a survivor or one who lost their life to cancer. After dark, the track lights were turned out and luminaries were lit as each name was called. For several minutes, the field was lit solely by them.
The walking relay lasted until 7 the Saturday morning. There were several contest along with live music, games and a movie for entertainment.
All funds raised by the Midlothian Relay for Life go directly the American Cancer Society research for a cure.