HOPE BURNS ETERNAL: Superhero survivors honored during Relay for Life

KEVIN HOLAMON BROWNWOOD BULLETIN kevin.holamon@brownwoodbulletin.com
Honorary adult survivor Brandy Bishop (holding left edge of sign) and honorary child survivor Yelena Martin (holding middle of sign) were among those who took part in the survivors lap to start the Brown County Relay for Life Friday night at Gordon Wood Stadium.

This year’s Relay for Life is themed around superheroes and the survivors at the event fully embodied that persona.

The annual event is always about hope and everyone who attends senses that right from the start.

As is tradition, the adult and child survivor special honorees are flown into the stadium by helicopter and are greeted by lines of cheering friends, family, and complete strangers as they arrive onto the track by golf cart.

Leak Surveys of Early provided the helicopter, piloted by Mike Mayfield, which picked up the survivors and a family member at Brownwood Regional Medical Center.

This year’s child honoree is 6-year-old Yelena Martin of Coleman. Following her recovery, Yelena has now participated in four Brown County Relays.

The 2014 adult honoree is Brandy (Byars) Bishop. She was selected for her will to fight and overcome cancer and is a 14-year survivor.

After a few presentations and celebration announcements by the survivors, Brandy and Yelena carried the banner to lead the first lap of the event, reserved solely for all of the survivors attending.

At the end of that lap, the dynamic duo led the Caregivers Lap, reserved for anyone who has ever cared for someone with cancer, along with those for whom they cared if present. The caregivers included family members, friends, nurses, doctors, hospice, and others.

At dark, the Luminaria Ceremony is held to remember those who have been lost to cancer and to support those who are currently battling the disease. Luminaries are placed around the inside perimeter of the track, as well as in the stands, many decorated by family members and bearing the names of loved ones.

There were many long-time participants and several new teams this year.

Team Cade was by far the largest, boasting an impressive 50-plus team members, all wearing blue shirts with a large C on a yellow background, with the words “Cade Our Hero” printed below. The members, consisting largely of family and coworkers of his parents, were all there to honor Cade Boyle, who lost his fight with cancer a year ago, at age 9. This is the second year the team has participated.

The event is 12 hours in length, concluding with the Closing Ceremony, “a time to remember the lives of those lost and to celebrate the commitment to fight back against this disease over the next year,” at 7 a.m.