The American Cancer Society 14th Annual Relay For Life of Moniteau County was held Friday-Saturday at the Moniteau County Fairgrounds, California, where people of all ages came together to raise funds to help fight cancer, to celebrate those who have survived it, and to help those currently battling the disease.
The theme for this year's event was "Family. Fun. Fight Back."
During the opening ceremony, the Cub Scout Pack 120 did the flag presentation, and Kassi Meisenheimer sang the National Anthem. Gene Eulinger gave the invocation, and cancer survivor Daniel Williams, California Elementary School Principal, was the guest speaker.
"Since it's conception, the Moniteau County Relay For Life has raised approximately $800,000," Williams said. "Though the cancer fight is far from over, we have seen our efforts pay off."
Williams then shared his story, recalling the life goals he and girlfriend Kelli Harlan (now his wife) had shared in their senior California High School yearbooks in 1999.
"Hers said she was going to marry Daniel and have three little football players," he said. "Mine said, 'I think I'm going to bail some hay next week.' In 2001, Kelli got my goals set straight and we got married. We were poor, but didn't have a care in the world."
In 2007, after the births of two daughters (in 2003 and 2006), Williams was diagnosed with Stage 2 Testicular Cancer.
"I had already decided how I wanted my life to be at this point," he said. "So I decided I wasn't going to be afraid and I wanted to be alive. I was going to do only what made me happy."
In 2008, Williams joined the California R-I Administration, and six years later the cancer was back.
"I went back into that reflection mode," he said. "Was I doing what I had set out to do? Then I decided I wasn't going to sit back and wait for the storm to pass. By God I was going to dance in the rain!"
The father of three daughters at this point, just before the surgery to remove Williams' tumor, his wife told him she was pregnant again. This time it was twin boys.
"It was the blessing our family needed," he said. "Throughout my journey I found myself eternally grateful to California R-I Schools, and especially the people at California Elementary. They have been incredibly kind and caring."
In closing, Williams said, "I want to be remembered as a man who loved life, my family and friends, and who loved to dance in the rain."
Cancer survivors were then recognized, followed by the Survivor Lap and Caregiver Lap.
New to the relay this year was the Little Mister and Little Miss Relay Contest, which was won by Jeremiah Beydler, 3, son of Nick and Emily Beydler, Jefferson City, and Lilly Holsman, 4, daughter of Laura Bloch, Jefferson City, and Corey Holsman, California.
The runner-up for the Little Miss Relay was Hadley Milligan, 4, daughter of James and Lisa Milligan, California.
Members of the relay teams took to the track after the opening ceremony, and Jay with Colossal Sounds provided music throughout the night. Relay teams hosted fundraising activities at their site throughout the night, and other activities on the agenda included the silent auction, the luminaria and wish lantern ceremonies, the toilet paper fashion show, and the parade of teams, to name a few.
At the close of the relay Saturday, a total of $55,988.17 had been raised, according to Event Chairperson Jenny Brown.
A total of eight teams participated, with the Turkey Trotters ultimately leading in fundraising with a total of $13,486.82. California Girls followed with $10,734.26, and Joshua's Angels finished with $9,304.50. Joy Fischer raised $5,651.70; the Clean Up Crew, $4,813.50; Pedia-Cure, $3,678.87; Knipp Tailgaters, $2,918; and The Bakers Dozen, $2,315.52.
Once again, the Relay For Life of Moniteau County was a success as funds were raised to fight cancer, and participants had the opportunity to come together to support a good cause while having a good time.
For more information about the ACS Relay For Life, got to RelayForLife.org.