CALAIS, Maine — It poured rain off and on throughout the night Friday, but more than 100 participants were undaunted as they walked in support of people who have survived or lost their battles with cancer.
It was the fifth annual Relay For Life event held at Washington County Community College.
The group had raised more than $24,000 so far, with more money coming in. The top group fundraiser was Calais Regional Hospital with $3,368. The top individual fundraiser was Patsy Beckett with $570.
In Old Town, meanwhile, the Relay For Life cancer fundraiser there attracted more than 90 teams from throughout Greater Bangor. Despite drizzly weather, teams walked the track at Old Town High School throughout the night Friday.
Gov. John Baldacci congratulated the walkers during closing ceremonies just before noon Saturday.
The Old Town Relay For Life raised about $150,000 for cancer research and support services.
The ceremonies in Calais began at 6 p.m. Friday with former businessman Dan Hollingdale serving as moderator.
Calais City Councilor Joyce Maker, representing the mayor and fellow city councilors who were unable to attend, told the group the rain would not stop her from participating.
“I look at the rain as tears of joy for all the help that you are giving those people who are suffering from cancer,” she said.
Participants came from all over Washington County including representatives of Downeast LNG in Robbinston.
Members of the Calais Fire Department walked in support of former firefighter Billy Townsend who earlier this year lost his battle with leukemia.
Two teams from Indian Township were there in support of former teacher Faye Nicholas who lost her battle with cancer in March.
Sandy Lyon and Chris Goldsmith, team captains for the Indian Township School, said they had more than 30 walkers in attendance.
“We’ve had so many co-workers that have lost loved ones, and we just lost a member of our school staff this year that we loved dearly,” Goldsmith said, as she explained why Indian Township was able to field such large teams.
The Indian Township team raised more than $2,000, but said more money was coming in.
Lyon, who has participated in the Relay For Life in the past, said that when members of the school’s Wellness Team asked what they could do to honor Nicholas’ memory, they decided to participate in the Relay For Life.
Nicholas’ daughter, Carla Gillespie, and her daughter, Lacey, also walked in the relay.
Carla Gillespie described her mother. “She was very loving and caring. She would do anything for anybody. She would go out of her way to make every child happy,” she said. “She was a friend to everybody.”
Lyon encouraged people to participate. “I think if you’ve never done it, then come down, take a walk around the track, take a look around, meet a few people, talk to them and hear their stories, because there isn’t anybody I know who hasn’t had their life touched by cancer in some way,” Lyon said.
Armed with raincoats, umbrellas and other gear for inclement weather, the teams walked throughout the night.
Around 9:30 p.m., the group stood silently during the lighted candle ceremony. There were more than 1,000 luminarias.
Lyon read a poem she wrote called “The Naming Hour:”
“There are no Flanders Fields for these,
Our fallen friends and families.
No markers grand, nor cross or star;
Row upon row to be seen from afar.
And so we walk today and we will walk on until
The cure is found and cancer’s ravages are stilled.
These beloved we remember as we continue to take
The journey they struggled on but were unable to make.
The fallen and fighting in our hearts shall remain
As we walk through the darkness; the sunshine will reign.”
The event ended early Saturday morning.
BDN writer Meg Haskell contributed to this report.