GLOVERSVILLE - It would take more than just a drizzle to dampen the spirits of those participating in Fulton and Montgomery Counties' 15th annual Relay for Life.
More than 1,500 people, including cancer survivors, family members and caregivers, came out in force Friday night to share their stories, listen to music, walk around the track at Park Terrace Elementary School and have a good time.
Mostly, though, they drew strength from each other's presence, as they do each year.
The survivors lap kicks off the 15th annual Relay for Life of Fulton and Montgomery Counties on Friday at the Park Terrace Elementary School track in Gloversville. More than 1,500 people participated this year.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Michael Iannotti of Johnstown is a 10-year survivor; he was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer on June 14, 2002.
"That's a date I'll never forget," he said Friday.
His purpose in coming to the Relay for Life is to inspire other people.
"If I can do it, anybody can do it," he said. "You have to have strength and will power. Faith in God doesn't hurt, either."
Iannotti sees his doctor once a year. He used to go every three months, then every six months.
"Cancer is not a death sentence," he said. "Smoking can be a death sentence; it almost killed me."
Nancy Insogna was diagnosed in with cancer in February 2008. She has fond memories of her walking partner at last year's Relay for Life, the late Jim Gabeler.
"He died Dec. 14," she said of Gabeler. "The message is, don't put off what could save your life."
Gabeler was a teacher at the Wheelerville Union Free School and a longtime volleyball coach.
"He didn't just teach science and sports, but life," she said.
Loretta Hackney works for the American Cancer Society and is one of the organizers of the Relay for Life. She said about 70 teams, representing between 1,500 and 1,600 people, took part in this year's Relay for Life.
"It's down from last year, but it's still amazing, given the weather," she said.
Relay for Life is a team event, Hackney emphasized.
"We ask people to organize teams," she said. "For the next 13 hours, at least one person from each team will walk on the track."
Fonda-Fultonville Central School fielded two teams, including the "Little Braves," who took part in a similar event for cystic fibrosis earlier in the day.
"Wheelerville and St. Johnsville [school districts] have teams as well," Hackney said. "St. Johnsville's team isn't very big, but they raise a lot of money."
Jane Brower of Johnstown, whose 9-year-old daughter, Sierra, already is a five-and-a-half-year survivor, called Hackney "the most awesome person."
Hackney tossed the praise right back at Brower, saying she and other volunteers are the ones who do all the work.
"It's a big lovefest," Hackney said. "That's part of the reason this event is so successful. We're all here for the same reason."
The Relay for Life is a great example of the community coming together, Hackney said. Money is vital for continued cancer research, and this event always does well.
"Every $5 donation, every 5-cent can somebody returns is important," she said. "We've had everything from car shows to raffles to Zumba-thons. We've eaten a lot of food."
This year's fundraising goal is $175,000, an increase over the $165,000 raised last year, Hackney said.
"We raised the bar this year," she said. "We're currently [as of about 8 p.m.] at $107,000. We'll announce a nice number [Saturday], but we'll fundraise through Aug. 31. We hope to hit the $175,000 by the end of August."
The Relay for Life was scheduled to continue all Friday night and into this morning. A raffle drawing was scheduled for 11:45 p.m. Friday, and a "Fight Back" ceremony for 11:55 p.m.
Several special laps around the track were scheduled as well, including laps for servicemen and women, firefighters and law enforcement officers at 7 p.m., kids and "kids at heart" at 7:30 p.m., the "parade of teams" at 8 p.m. and a "poker lap" at 10:30 p.m.
A "Luminaria" ceremony of remembrance was scheduled for 9:15 p.m. and a "mystery scavenger hunt" was set for 11 p.m.
John R. Becker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.