A walk to end cancer

West Twin Park was filled with emotion Thursday night. A large crowd came out to the Amercian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to honor and support friends and loved ones who have or are currently battling cancer.

Relay for Life Committee Member Pat Nokes was one of the many supporters at the park.

“Relay for Life is to support people that have survived cancer and to honor the memory of the people that passed away,” said Relay for Life committee member Pat Nokes. “We want everybody to know that we’re all here for them. Most of us on the committee have lost loved ones to cancer. We know what it means to have the support of community, family, and friends.”

This year’s Relay for Life Honorary Chairman Bob Echelberger was joined by a full support crew. His family. Echelberger was joined by his wife, Clysta, and three of his daughters, Jeri Babb, Joni Thornton, and Joy Kapple. The couple have two other daughters. One was unable to make event. Their fifth daughter, Jill, passed away of cancer. One of the over 90 luminaries lining the sidewalk at the event was decorated and placed in her honor.

“It’s quite an honor. It really is,” said Bob Echelberger. “When I started with cancer I became very emotional and gained a great deal of empathy for other people. A great deal.”

When asked how he got through his battle, he motioned to his wife, Clysta, as he patted her on the knee and said, “I’ve had a terrific caretaker. She has been my eyes, my chauffeur, my everything. Her and the girls.”

“We’d like to see a cure for this,” said Clysta Echelberger. “I hope they raise a lot of money.”

Kapple’s three children are all cancer survivors as well.

“We all love this community,” said Babb.

“It means a lot to dad. It has from the day he got diagnosed. We feel really blessed that we still have him,” said Kapple.

The event began with a prayer by First Congregational UCC Pastor Craig Blaufuss.

“We have gathered tonight to unite in our resolve to walk, to contribute, and to pray and hope that together we can find a cure for cancer,” said Blaufuss. “We gather tonight, God, to celebrate with our survivors. We gather tonight to pray for the healing of those who have cancer. We gather to pray for and remember those who have lost their lives to cancer.”

Gianna Borer sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as the Webster City American Legion Post 191 presented the flags.

Next, over 60 cancer survivors began their lap down Seneca Street. Bob Echelberger’s three daughters proudly displayed the banner at the front of the pack, Bob and Clysta followed them in a golf cart.

Spectators and loved ones in attendance acknowledged each survivor with applause, smiles, and some tears.

After the walk, survivors and care givers were treated to a meal at the fire station.

Survivor Joyce Gelhaus was happy to be a part of Relay for Life again this year.

“We had a lot of cancer in our family and I started working with Relay before I had cancer myself,” said Gelhaus. “I am a 12-year survivor with breast cancer.”

“My brother-in-law had brain cancer and he did not survive, so my sister and nephew come and support also,” said Gelhaus. “It’s a good cause. It’s very inspiring just to show support for the cancer survivors. It’s the support. It gives you enthusiasm. It makes you feel good and want to fight.”

Marcia Halbach has been on the Relay for Life committee for three years. Halbach first got involved in the Relay five years ago.

“My sister, Pam, had cancer and she was listed as a survivor,” said Halbach. “We start out each Relay for Life with a survivor walk and take a moment to pray for them, honor them, and encourage them. The next year I joined a team. The next year I got on the committee because I wanted to help out more.”

My sister died at a pretty young age. She was 43,” said Halbach. “It’s just a really hard thing for a family to deal with and Relay for Life is one way that is a big encouragement. For her it was important. Even though my sister didn’t survive cancer, there are still a lot of good things the American Cancer Society is doing and I want to be a part of it.”

The night’s events ended with the lighting of luminaries in honor of those who are battling cancer or have fought cancer.