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Relay for Life unites fighters in battle against cancer

There was the appetizing scent of grilled chicken and baked beans wafting through spring air, tents decorated in every hue of the rainbow, pint-sized floats, and upbeat tunes playing through the loudspeakers.

It was a party. A reunion. A picnic. A parade. A remembrance.

It was 2017 Butler County’s Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society, and it was an unqualified success.

Before the large group of purple-clad survivors ever took their victory lap around the track marked off at the Kiwanis Butler County Fairgrounds, this year’s event with its theme “The Colors of Cancer,” had met and surpassed its monetary goal of $60,000. More than $73,500 had already been turned in by the 20 Relay teams.

By night’s end, the numbers would rise to approximately $80,000.

The rains that fell heavily earlier in the day went away in the afternoon.  Blue skies, white clouds and sunshine returned just in time for an evening dedicated to celebrating, remembering and fighting back against the common enemy of cancer.

Event and activities chair Gerri McGinnis had declared her desire to have a Relay that did more than just raise money. She wanted it to be a fun experience for all involved.

Judging by the smiles and laughter seen and heard across the fairgrounds, McGinnis’s wish came true.

Abbie Gardner Ballew, Ann Steiner Gregory and Casey Rogers were among the hardy souls (and flexible bodies) who took on the Twister Challenge, while mother and daughter Kalee Russell and Vicki Burt went head to head as contestants in Relay Idol 2017.

Rogers proved to be Top Twister, while Burt’s soulful vocals earned her the Relay Idol trophy. Kalee’s spirited vocal performance tied for third place with Madison Gregory’s lively folk dance, and talented songstress Hannah Scholfield took second place honors.

Other winners at Relay include First United Methodist Church’s Top Tent Award for their whimsical and colorful Dr. Seuss-themed tent; Hook St. Church of Christ’s first place honors in the first-ever Relay mini-float competition for their pirate ship, and the Sandcut Community. Sandcut’s team also took home the coveted Spirit of Relay trophy, raising $11,500 through a series of successful fundraisers. Runners-up in the mini-float competition included Pioneer Electric and the Sandcut Community.

“I have to thank the whole community for coming together and making this a success—for being part of this village. I had a lot of wonderful people helping who all worked so hard,” said a tired but smiling McGinnis as the event wound down Friday night.