‘The human spirit is immeasurable’

(Photo by Alen Fetahi)

(Photo by Alen Fetahi)

Chances are you know someone, perhaps a relative, co-worker, or friend, whose life has been changed forever by cancer.

Honoring the survivors and remembering those whose lives were tragically taken brought Saugerties residents to the Kiwanis Ice Arena on May 18 for the 11th annual Saugerties Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

John-Anthony Bruno, director of special events at the American Cancer Society, was impressed with this year’s event. “We’ve raised more money than last year,” Bruno said, referencing the total of over $40,000. “The volunteers are more engaged, and the community is more active in the fight against cancer.”


The American Cancer Society is celebrating its 100th anniversary with the goal of ending cancer in this century, Bruno said. “Two out of three people can survive five years or more with cancer,” he said. “Thirty years ago it was one out of three.” Bruno wants to see that become three out of three.

Twenty-two teams took part in the event.

Co-chair Kelly Umaña is a cancer survivor. “I’m walking so my kids don’t have to hear, ‘You have cancer.’” She praised volunteers for hard work and year-round fundraising.

Umaña’s cousin Melinda Esposito was the other chair, a post she’s held for three years. She’s had a lot of family and friends with cancer. Honoring and remembering them are the main reasons she participates in Relay for Life.

Saugerties Town Supervisor Kelly Myers was proud to attend the event. “It’s an incredible outpouring of love, courage and support,” she said.

She said Saugerties residents come together in times good and bad. “When people see a problem they come together to take action.”

The 22 teams included survivors, caretakers, family members, co-workers and friends.

Among them were this year’s grand marshals, cancer survivors Char Fraske and Ed Sinnott.

Fraske is participating in her ninth Relay. She teaches fifth grade at Mount Marion Elementary School. She became emotional when she talked about how her students helped her pull through the difficult time during her diagnosis and treatments.

She said the disease changed her life. “I can’t explain it,” Fraske said. “You really learn what’s important in life.”

“The human spirit is immeasurable,” she added.

Ed Sinnott was another grand marshal. This is his 49th year as a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed back in the 1960s when doctors simply referred to cancer as “C” to avoid scaring patients. “I’m 76, and I was 28 when I was diagnosed,” Sinnott said.

“I’ve never let it dwell on me,” he said. “I’ve always had my wife and she kept me going.”

Kelly Umaña’s daughter Amber participated as part of the family’s Counting on a Cure team. “I walk in honor of my mom and grandmother and in memory of loved ones lost to cancer,” she said.

Johna Valk walked as part of the Doyle’s Shamrock’s Team for her uncle who was a grand marshal in 2011. The Valk family hosted a tent and many family members were walking in the event.

Perhaps the largest showing was for the Dream Team, which walked in memory of Dawn Geick, a former Relay for Life grand marshal who passed away last year. She organized the team three years ago, said Geick’s sister Brenda Igoe.

“She always had a wonderful outlook on life,” she said.

“We sold over 100 t-shirts in memory of Dawn,” Igoe added.

“It’s a wonderful turnout,” Dawn Geick’s mother Ruth Kime said. “It’s great to see all of these people that really care.”

Prostate cancer survivor John “Spanky” Kelder was in his 15th Relay. He is captain of Team Spanky. He has worked at Ametek for 42 years.

Cancer has devastated his family. Six of 12 siblings in his family had cancer.

He was excited to see how far Relay for Life has come from its rain-soaked beginning 11 years ago at Saugerties High School.

“In our first year maybe 100 people came, and we raised $4,000,” he said.

Kelder noted how much the day meant to him. “It’s my day,” he said. “It’s everyone who is a cancer survivor’s day. It’s a day to tell everyone we need to find a cure for this terrible disease.”

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