MORRISONVILLE - A record number of people turned out for this year's Plattsburgh's Relay for Life, all to support the American Cancer Society's mission to fight cancer.
On June 19, nearly 1,400 participants poured into the Clinton County Fairgrounds raising donations for the nonprofit organization which currently total more than $185,000. Three hundred survivors of the disease were at the event wearing purple shirts as proof the disease "can't win," as keynote speaker Gordon J. Hazel stated.
In his speech, Hazel, who is currently battling pancreatic cancer, had words of advice which he strongly emphasized
"I mean, everyone eventually dies from something," Hazel said. "But, it's important, it's very important, to know that human beings have survived every cancer known to man. So, I might die. This might eventually take my life. It might not. Either way, I'm telling you tonight, it cannot win."
Hazel, who many may know as the former executive director of the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity of Clinton and Franklin Counties, had some difficulty during his speech, as medicine he is currently taking affects his vocal cords.
"I almost declined the invitation to speak here today," Hazel explained during his speech. But, then he reminded the crowd "cancer can't win."
"I thought about that and I said, 'If I decline this invitation to speak ... I'm declining because I can't talk very well. And I can't talk very well because I'm taking a medication to fight cancer,'" said Hazel. "So, if I didn't come, I would have given that cancer some kind of power over me and I absolutely refuse to do that and let it win."
Throughout the rest of his speech, Hazel gave uplifting thoughts about cancer, including how he laughs at cancer every night when he goes to bed.
"When you have cancer and you can laugh about it, do it," Hazel urged. "Do it and save your worry."
Hazel added he didn't find cancer to be funny, but because it gives people enough worry, people should "let it give you some laughs for a change."
"Laughter is good for the heart. It's good for the mind, body. It's good for the soul," he said. "So, we need to laugh more."
Plattsburgh's Relay for Life chairman Mark Brown Jr. said Hazel is among other survivors who speak every year during the annual event.
"Every year we have a survivor speaker," Brown explained. "Somebody whose been through it, who can offer some words of encouragement and can relate more easily to all of those people wearing purple shirts."
Brown added it is the people who wear the purple shirts, who people are most excited to see.
"They're the reason that we know what we're doing matters," he said. "Because if it didn't matter, and it wasn't helping, our survivor counts wouldn't be increasing every year."
In the end, Brown found this year's Relay for Life to be a huge success. There were 103 teams, 100 more survivors than last year, and Plattsburgh reached its goal of 261 registrants for the CPS3 cancer prevention study.
"It's become such a huge event; there's practically no one in the community that doesn't help," Brown said. "The thousands of people that showed up that day to come to the event and raised money, who donated money, without them we wouldn't be at where we're at right now."
American Cancer Society community executive Joan Brown said she expects the amount raised to surpass $200,000 after all corporate sponors and donations come in.