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Catonsville residents rally for Relay for Life

Breast CancerRelay for LifeAmerican Cancer SocietySkin CancerLung Cancer

Cancer patients, survivors and caregivers will unite as one Saturday for Catonsville's annual Relay for Life Event.

The June 8 event, hosted by the American Cancer Society and held on the track at the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore, will start at 6 p.m. Saturday with a survivor lap around the track.

Teams will have at least one member walking around the track from then until 6 a.m. Sunday.

"The big thing we want to do is educate the people, educate the community, to know that the resources and support are out there," said one of the event coordinators Francine Churchill.

She said she watched her 32-year-old niece die from breast cancer in 2006 and her favorite uncle died from lung cancer three years later.

"I just want to make a difference and not let her life be in vain," Churchill said of her niece.

Event co-coordinator Lynette Lindy is a six-year breast cancer survivor.

"I was diagnosed in 2007," Lindy said. "It's actually a whole entire year of your life you're going through the battle. A whole year all you're seeing is white coats and everything is cancer."

Lindy said that while she was going through treatment at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, she would speak to patients and survivors about how they coped with their illnesses.

Lindy said she saw the American Cancer Society's work throughout the hospital. After her treatment, and then taking a break from all things cancer when she went into remission, she decided it was time to give back again. She began working with Churchill to plan Relay in 2011.

"It's for research for other people coming along ... some we can ultimately find a cure," Lindy said of the event.

As of last week, teams registered for the Catonsville event have raised more than $56,000. That number is expected to grow in the days leading up to Saturday's event as well as on Saturday. Those wishing to contribute have until July 31 for their donations to be accepted.

One Catonsville family has been working closely with Churchill and Lindy to on the event planning committee while overcoming their own battles against cancer.

David Herman and his wife, Erika, moved to Catonsville from Millersville in October 2012.

The very next day, his mother died from breast cancer.

Once they were settled in their new home, the couple decided they wanted to get involved in the planning process for the local Relay event.

"I think it's just a good way to remember her," Erika Herman said of David's mother.

David Herman's grandfather had died from melanoma in August 2012 and both he and his wife know many other friends who have been diagnosed.

"My family has been hit with cancer pretty hard," he said. "I had lost a friend to breast cancer (as well). It's everywhere."

Herman's mother had been in remission for eight years when the disease resurfaced. The Hermans' two daughters walked in a survivor lap with her at a previous Relay event in Hanover, Pa.

Once in the Catonsville area, the couple decided to continue that connection.

"I walked in on a committee meeting and said I wanted to help," David Herman said. "I think I dove into this event.

"I just think focusing your energy into the event, not your sadness, (is important)," he said.

Since then, the couple has put Erika's many connections as a teacher at Hillcrest Elementary to work securing a variety of event sponsors and donations.

"It's just from who we know," Erika Herman said. "The connections definitely helped."

So far the couple has received gift card donations from C'ville Bike and the Hub, Peace of Pizza, and Edible Arrangements in addition to 500 bottles of energy drinks from Body Armor, 100 T-shirts from EmbroidMe, a variety of "swag" from Corona and more.

"A lot of people were giving gift cards and baskets and things like that," she said.

She said they got so many donations from so many different organizations, they will host a silent auction at their tent Saturday night.

"That way, when everybody takes a lap, they can check on their bid," Erika Herman said.

The couple agreed that participating in Relay was a way for their family to cope with the previous year's losses.

They will purchase and light luminaries for David's mother and grandfather as part of the luminary service that takes place at every Relay event nationwide.

Tea light candles are placed in white bags with the patient, survivor or departed's name on it. At around 9 p.m., the bags are placed around the track to spell out "HOPE" in the bleachers before they are all lit.

"It's a sobering moment when they light the luminaries," David Herman said.

"It's a good way to honor somebody," Erika Herman said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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