“FIGHT BACK!” could be heard echoing around the Hamburg Area High School football stadium on Friday afternoon, May 8, as Hamburg Area Middle School sixth grade students participated in the annual Relay Field Day program.

“You guys have given so much hope to so many people today,” said Tracy Francis, sixth grade teacher as well as American Cancer Society Relay Field Day Coordinator and cancer survivor. “You guys raised $2,360. Good job!”

The students spent their afternoon learning about the disease that affects many and information to help prevent cancer. Dermatologist Amy Hendrix presented the students with an informative video titled “Dear 16-year-old Me” followed by a slide show on skin cancer.

“Ewwwww,” some of the students called out during certain parts of the presentation which featured pictures.

Throughout, students were asked trivia questions from the presentation which stressed certain parts such as what level sunscreen should be used with the promised reward of candy and water bottles.

Before the outside activities began, students decorated their Luminaria bags with a letter to someone they know affected by cancer or to cancer itself with the message reflecting hope, dedication and a fighting spirit. The letters are personal for students as just about all hands were raised when they were asked how many of them know of someone affected by cancer.

The second half of the program had the students outside at the football stadium where four stations were set up. After a brief time at each station, the students would rotate. Stations taught the students about sunscreen and sun safety, healthy eating, cancer comprehension in the form of a crossword puzzle and information on how cancer spreads with a cancer invasion tag game.

Following the activities, students gathered on the field for the ceremony portion.

“On a person note, I want to thank you because I am one of those people,” Francis said to the students on their fundraising efforts. “Nine years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. When you hear those words, your brain shuts off. It is probably the scariest three words you can hear, ‘you have cancer.’ But, I’m here. The reason why I do this is because if I can get just one of you to share this information, to put on sunscreen, to think about what you’re putting into your bodies, to go and get checked, to talk to your family and your friends about cancer education, to make Relay your new activity for the year, then what I went through has been worth it. So thank you guys for providing all that hope.”

Students, teachers and volunteers then took a silent dedication lap around the track and were able to look at their fellow classmates’ Luminaria bags followed by several other laps with the fighting spirit.

To close was this year’s speaker and cancer survivor Sue Yoder, a retired physical education teacher from Exeter High School.

“I was very , very fortunate. My story’s a little different. It was one of early detection,” said Yoder. “I was so lucky.”

Yoder spoke to the students about her diagnosis about three years ago when she began to have a pain in the right side of her midsection. Following about five months of tests, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After the complicated, major surgery, Yoder was told that the tumor was pre-cancerous. She explained to the students that pancreatic cancer is so deadly because often by the time the symptoms are showing it is too late.

“I’ve been very fortunate. Early detection saved my life and you guys are just great. We all appreciate what you’ve done for the American Cancer Society,” said Yoder. She praised the students for being altruistic with not only their fundraising, but also for their cancer awareness.

Next weekend, Friday May 15 to Saturday May 16 is Relay for Life at Schuylkill Valley High School during which the Hamburg team, the Hawk Walkers, will join hundreds of others to fight back against cancer and raise awareness.

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