ST. CLAIRSVILLE - The reasons why people take part in Relay For Life events across the country are plentiful.
Belmont Countians didn't have to look much further than the opening lap of Friday's 14-hour event when dozens of walkers, donning purple shirts, took part in the ceremonial survivors lap at the Red Devil Stadium, kicking off the annual event, which hopes to raise $50,000 this year.
While Relay for Life has a special place in so many people's hearts, the 2012 Relays will be one that relay veterans and cancer survivors Maggie Truchan and Donna Deter won't soon forget.
T-L Photo /Seth Staskey
Maggie Truchan, right, speaking during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Belmont County Relay for Life. Truchan is announcing that she is sharing the Relay’s Honorary Chairperson with Donna Deter.
Truchan served as the Relay's Honorary Chairperson and during the opening ceremony, she shared the honor with Deter, whom has fought off cancer three times and serves as her team's captain.
As Truchan addressed the relay prior to the opening lap, she surprised Deter by including her in the honor.
"When I went home (after they first asked me about honorary chair), I said to my husband, 'I don't deserve this position. The person who deserves it is Donna Deter,'" Truchan said.
Deter and Truchan have been active in relay for several years and have taken on a bigger role for their team the last few years.
"(Donna) is a three-time survivor, who's battled so hard. To look and listen to her, you'd never know she had one sick day in her life. She's a very strong, inspirational person, and I told my husband I can't (be honorary) chair without Donna, so I decided that night that somehow, someway, I had to bring Donna into it."
A misty-eyed Deter and Truchan embraced after she learned she was being recognized.
"She told me, 'its an honor for me to share this with you, and it's an even bigger honor to walk with your family,'" Truchan said. "She was quite moved."
It was just two weeks ago that the Relay for Life Committee, which is co-chaired by Sue Rine and Jo Ann Smolira, approached Truchan, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and she was taken aback by the request.
"I felt totally unworthy because I immediately remembered last year's (three) honorary chairs," Truchan said. "I looked back on that and thought how awesome these people are, and to share the same thing they did is a humbling honor."
Sitting there, as the honorary chair was being discussed, Truchan found herself at a point she doesn't reach too often - at a loss for words.
"I sat in that room for a long time and I couldn't answer them (yes or no)," Truchan said. "They gave me the opportunity to think about it. I did, thanked for them the honor and the rest is history."
After Deter and Truchan jointly cut the ribbon to officially open the Relay, they and Truchan's family circled the oval.
"It was emotional," Truchan said of the opening lap. "My family was supportive from the beginning and this year's lap was probably even more special to me because my sister (Pat Rupe) came home (from Lancaster). She was one of the ones who stayed with me, so that meant a lot to me."
Different events were ongoing at the Red Devil Stadium all night long, including the luminaria ceremony, which featured songs, readings and the tradition lighting of the luminaries to honor those who've passed away from cancer or are a cancer survivor.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org