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Relay For Life hosts luminaria event to remember cancer fighters on Washburn campus



TOPEKA, Kan. – Luminaria bags with people’s names and faces gave people the chance to remember and honor those who have died, are still battling, or overcame cancer.

The bags were showcased along the walking path next to the bell tower.

“Truthfully, I don’t think there is anybody that can say that cancer hasn’t affected them,” said Shawnee County’s Relay For Life Co-Chair Shelle Arnold.

945 luminarias lined the walkways on Washburn’s campus.

They showed their support with memories and heartfelt drawings or other additions to the bag.

“I feel like I have to do something — have to do something to make a difference.”

Arnold said they were glad the pandemic eased up so they could gather in person for what’s often an emotional event.

“To see somebody without a mask on, in the flesh, not on zoom, and not with a mask on, and it’s been really nice and the weather has held out which is a big plus.”

Normally, Relay For Life brings people to one location to see survivors walk a lap to celebrate a battle won, or continuing to fight, and receive support. 12 years ago, Arnold watched her daughter-in-law walk a lap.

“I went back the next year and lit a luminaria in her memory and after that, I just decided that this was something that I had to be a part of.”

As the sun went down, the luminarias were lit. Shining a light on the impact cancer continues to have. Money raised through the event, and all events Relay For Life had throughout this week, goes to the American Cancer Society. She said the ACS is the second-largest fundraiser for cancer research — only behind the federal government funding.

“The support of the community for other survivors, for caregivers who maybe have lost their survivors. Awareness. Awareness is huge.”

Organizers told me their goal was to raise $75,000 at the event tonight. They matched that goal in the first hour.