It was an emotional day for most walking the track at Lake Benson for Garner’s Relay for Life event.
Those walking were survivors, family members of survivors and family members of loved ones who weren’t as fortunate to make it through their battle with cancer.
But together they were part of a crowd of volunteers – some joined hand-in-hand – who raised more than $14,000 for the event, according to the Garner Relay for Life website. There were dancers, games, food, performances all designed to raise money for cancer research through the American Cancer Society.
“It’s just to me very touching that our community comes together like this to support such a great cause,” Jill Cottingem, organizer for Garner’s Relay for Life, said on Friday. “I think it says a lot for small town character to be able to come together in this way.”
There was no rain at this event. For 18 hours, people came and walked around the track at Lake Benson Park. Some had loved ones who had died, like Tony Capaforte, who had come with his wife since 1997. But only recently did it really hit home for him and his two children Garrett, 14 and Taytem, 12.
Tony Capaforte’s wife, Garrett and Taytem’s mom, Mary Kathrine Capaforte, died three years ago, less than a year after she was diagnosed with stage four Melanoma.
She was a P.E. teacher at Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex. She went to the dermatologist one day, who noticed she had a spot on her neck. It turned out to be cancer. She died 11 months later.
Now Tony Capaforte and his children wear a shirt that says “Have a great day on purpose,” as they continue walk the track together each year. It was their mother and wife’s favorite saying.
“It’s emotional for me,” Tony Capaforte said. “I try to remind my kids that cancer is not who their mother was and I don’t want them to associate cancer with their mother. She only had cancer for 11 months of her life. She was a great mother, great daughter, great wife, great teacher and a great person. And that’s I want my kids to remember her.”
Others were survivors, like Kathy Maxon, 71, a three-year breast cancer survivor, and her dog, Lola, a two-year basal cell cancer survivor. Maxon, a new resident of Garner, happened to be taking her dog for a walk at Lake Benson when she saw the event.
Maxon had already had cancer when she rescued Lola. Maxon said Lola helped her get through the tough times after surgery.
“She’s a such comfort to me,” Maxon said.
Then Lola got cancer, and she comforted her. Now both survivors, they share that bond. At 6 p.m., survivors told the gathered crowd how many years they had been a survivor, then took a lap around the track as they do every year. Some had been survivors for many years. Some were new survivors – young and old.
As of April 25, Garner teams have raised $132,758.95. People can donate for this year’s relay until Aug. 1, to fund research, in hopes that one day there will be a cure.