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Vienna Teams Unite Against Cancer

Relay for Life brings together 115 teams from throughout the community.

The festivities didn't officially start until Vienna mayor Jane Seeman and Elvis showed up, but when local band Fikistache took the stage an hour before them they played as hundreds of Vienna Relay for Life participants prepared for a marathon of activities that would range from light-hearted fun to deeply moving ceremonies.

The American Cancer Society-sponsored relay, held last Saturday at Marshall High School, was the third Vienna has hosted independently; 115 teams comprising approximately 15 members from throughout the community worked to raise money. With donations being accepted through August 31, it is expected that they will reach the stated goal of $400,000.

Jim Solomon served as the master of ceremonies after serving as chairman of the previous five area relays. He noted that many of this year's fund-raising teams were new to the event.

"There's always a nice blend of old teams and an influx of new teams just learning about the event," Solomon said. "It always kind of regenerates itself."

Sixty-three teams were new to the relay — many comprising young participants such as Thoreau Middle School 8th grader Matthew Mcaloon, a member of the Stenwood Stingers.

"I had a lot of friends who wanted me to do it and it's a good cause so I said 'What the heck, I'll do it," Mcaloon said.

THIS YEAR'S CO-CHAIR, Vienna resident Michelle Rhodes, was also new to the job after contributing to the relay in other capacities in previous years. She became involved after losing her mother to brain cancer.

"I was looking for a way to keep her alive," Rhodes said of her first year participating in the relay. "It was an amazing event and when Vienna had their first [relay] I wanted to be involved and I've been involved ever since."

Marshall sophomore Emily Moonan served as team captain of Statesmen for the Cure, a group of 18 Marshall students that raised approximately $1,200.

"One of my friends had been doing this for many years and I wanted to see how I would do, and it turned out pretty well," Moonan said.

A DINNER for cancer survivors was followed by a victory lap around the Marshall track. Approximately 100 survivors of all ages were given medals in recognition of their struggle.

U.S. Rep. Tom Davis spoke to the survivors and posed for photos with each of them. He has twice battled melanoma.

Among the most anticipated activities was the luminaria ceremony to honor those affected by cancer. The ceremony has an added significance for Rhodes as it provided a chance for her to remember her mother.

"It's the part of the event where I feel like she's there," she said, adding that this year they included a slide show of people who were survivors and those who had lost their battle with cancer. "Putting the face with the moment made it really amazing."

Madison High School freshman Shayne Ward, who lost his mother to cancer in March, spoke to the assembled crowd. Julie Murphy Wells, singer of popular folk band Eddie from Ohio and graduate of Marshall, sang a cappella. She received treatment for breast cancer in 2005.

"There was not a dry eye in the house," Rhodes said.