Relay for Life Takes Place This Weekend
When golf pro Eric Barto could answer questions with only a yes or no he knew something was wrong.
"I couldn't even say my own name or give my phone number."
At first Barto attributed the problem to the stress of a televised golf tournament.
An MRI and other tests done near his Ohio home in 2004 proved different: Barto had a glioblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor.
Five years, four surgeries, several courses of radiation and chemotherapy later, the Carthage resident will participate in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life held at the Moore County Fairgrounds in Carthage from 10 a.m. Saturday until 9 a.m. Sunday.
"My outlook was so bleak I just wanted to get my wife back home to North Carolina. Now I'm doing great," Barto says. Barto will speak during the candlelit service remembering lost loved ones. His wife, Debbie Barto, will speak on behalf of caregivers.
Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's signature nationwide fundraising 24-hour multimedia event. Teams of participants who have solicited donations gather at a park or school athletic field, camp out, walk laps around the track, hear speakers and are entertained.
The mood is upbeat and families are welcome.
"This is our way to honor survivors," says chairperson Jackie Tyson.
The relay began in the 1980s in Tacoma, Wash., when a colorectal surgeon raised $27,000 by running 83 miles around a track in 24 hours.
Last year, two Relays were held in Moore County -- one in Robbins, another at Pinecrest High School. Turnout was small. This year the events have been combined and more entertainment added, including the Sweet Tea and Sand Band, the Kevin Baker Band, the Golf Capital Chorus and The Reserve, a national pop/rock band on The Tour of Hope. The Relay also offers a silent auction, dancing, movies and glow-in-the-dark games.
The day begins with the triumphant Survivors' Lap around the track followed by opening speaker Charles McKnight telling his story:
McKnight, a Pinecrest High School graduate, was diagnosed with stage four Hodgkins lymphoma in 2007 when he was 21, newly married, expecting a baby, working, and a senior at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
"It took a year to process everything," McKnight says, meaning surgery, eight months of chemotherapy and 20 radiation sessions.
At no time did he back off or adjust his plans.
"Sometimes I would have radiation at 6 a.m. and go straight to class," McKnight recalls.
Now, at 23, he is in remission, has a baby daughter, bought a house and is a language arts instructor at West Pine Middle School where his wife teaches algebra.
McKnight will speak about hope. "I have a deeper understanding of cancer now. Cancer forces you to think about how finite and short life is. I had been struggling with aspects of my faith, which is now stronger. I understand that I have matured in ways I never would have without the cancer," he says. "I hope the cancer goes away but I know that while it's there, you can use it as a tool."
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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