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Relay lights the night with hope

It is estimated that one out of every four Canadians will die from cancer. Look around your office, at your family and friends, and let that number sink in.
Time Travellers teammates Patrick Auchstaetter and Marla Richardson battle it out at North Battleford's ninth annual Relay for Life, to raise money for cancer.

It is estimated that one out of every four Canadians will die from cancer. Look around your office, at your family and friends, and let that number sink in.

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates there will be 173,800 new cases of cancer diagnosed this year, and 76,200 deaths. With numbers like these, we are all affected by this disease.

To fight back, hundreds of people came to the Centennial Track June 11 to participate in the ninth annual Relay for Life. Relay for Life is an event that raises money and awareness for cancer, and gives people the chance to remember loved ones who have succumbed to the disease, or to celebrate those who have survived.

The relay goes all night, to remind people cancer doesn't take a break.

Present at the relay was a remarkable number of bright blue t-shirts, worn by Team Terry. The team was walking for Nico Hawryliw, a local high school student. Why the team is called Terry is an inside joke, but the emotion displayed by Hawryliw's friends and family is no laughing matter. Since the age of 12, Hawryliw has successfully fought cancer three times, which is why "Undefeated 3-0" is proudly splayed across the backs of the shirts.

Recently, the cancer has come back, putting Hawryliw in the fighter's ring once again. But it didn't stop the teen from coming to the relay, or going to school, despite taking daily chemo pills.

"You just have to stay positive," said Hawryliw, "and take stuff as it comes."

He said it was good to see all the survivors at the relay, as well as the huge number of friends who came to support him.

Jaden Jamieson has known Hawryliw since he started school. He said he looks up to Hawryliw, and he never truly understood the impact of cancer until it hit someone close to him.

"It's a determination that you don't understand, the way he fights and the way he carries on," said Jamieson.

"I feel honoured to be friends with him."

Another team called themselves the Green Thumbs, and said they were "planting a seed to grow the cure."

The name came from Glen Mackrell, a Battleford resident who loves to garden. His granddaughter, Cindy Ouellette, said her grandfather's garden is the source of many fond memories.

"Picking out of grandpa's garden was a big thing when we were kids, sneaking into the garden and stealing snowpeas."

Ouellette's daughter, Rory, drew the picture that became the design for the team's shirts. She said her favorite thing about her great-grandfather is he's always there for her.

"He's right across the street, so I can see him anytime I want," she said.

Mackrell, who is referred to jokingly as the bus driver of the family, was diagnosed with cancer six years ago.

This was his first Relay for Life, and he said it was great to see so much support.

Others are veterans of the relay, like Marla Richardson, who has been participating in the Relay for Life for four years running.

Her mother, Marilyn, successfully fought cancer.

"Every time I see her in the survivor's lap, I just run up and give her a big kiss," said Richardson.

Every year Richardson and her friends pick a different theme for their team. This year, they were the Time Travellers.

Richardson said her mom enjoys seeing what wacky theme they'll pick out. She said her mom has taught her a lot about strength.

"Even when you're sick, you can be strong and be a pillar of strength," said Richardson.

This year's relay raised just over $100,000, which was short of the $132,519 goal. Sharlene Martin is manager of the Battleford branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, where she's worked for the past 16 years. Martin also organizes the Relay for Life in Meadow Lake and Wilkie. She said this year's relay raised just over $100,000, which is short of their goal of $132,519, but more money is still coming in. Nine less teams than last year signed up, which is likely why the relay won't meet its goal, said Martin.

The team that raised the most, just over $12,000, was Team Inspiration, the credit union team. Altogether, the 33 individual teams managed to raise over $90,000, and over $4,000 was raised through the sale of luminaries.

Although fundraising is a major part of the event, Martin said the event in itself is a real encouragement to people affected by cancer.

"It's such an emotional event, and you can't even explain it, you have to be there to feel it."