A sea of pink and purple filled the gymnasium at the Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy on Friday night as cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters from around the area gathered together for Relay For Life of Central Ellis County.

“It is just breathtaking to be here. My mother died of melanoma in 1981. On March 15 this year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. From March 15 to May 13 of this year I have been diagnosed, I had my surgery, had my treatment and I was told I’m a breast cancer survivor and have no more treatment – (all) in two months’ time,” cancer survivor Areta Bryan said.

“Early detection is my story and that is the whole deal. I found out that I had cancer through my yearly mammogram. I do it every year and there it was. I got through my breast cancer in two months because of the medical science that these relays raise to support that science and these new procedures,” she said, saying if not for the funds people raise or their communicating the need for continued research she might not be here today.

Friday’s event started out with a walk around the gymnasium to honor cancer survivors and to encourage them to keep going. Walking on the survivors lap were people of all ages and backgrounds who had been affected by cancer. Along with the survivors, caregivers where honored as well as the people who have raised funds to support ongoing research.

Priscilla Snow was attending with her husband, Warren. Snow was diagnosed with breast cancer, undergone five surgeries and a double mastectomy and has one more surgery.

“I had a mammogram that one month it was clear and a month later I had a lump on my breast about the size of pecan. It just appeared. Having a daughter at 29 with ovarian cancer, surgery and chemotherapy has been very hard,” Snow said.

“Since we saw how much of inspiration she was in her faith when she went through and since I was diagnosed I thought I could go through the same thing,” she said.

Teams that took part in the event raised money for the American Cancer Society through different fundraisers such as car washes, selling lunches and hosting raffles. The team from Dart Container raised a little more than $12,000, which will be matched dollar for dollar by Dart. Robert Culpepper wanted to express his thanks to the community, Dart employees and Dart Corporation for showing their support for the cause.

The theme of this year’s event was “Toon Out Cancer” and teams had decorated their camping areas with different cartoon characters such as Speed Racer, Sponge Bob, Daffy Duck and Superman. Thoughout the night, teams held their own on-site fundraisers, selling everything from food to jewelry to massages with all proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society.

A large silent auction was held that included gift baskets, art, home decor, gift cards and sporting equipment. The relay also had a large raffle to give away items such as a children’s playhouse, a smoker, a Kindle and movie passes. The event started at 7 p.m. Friday and ended at 7 a.m. Saturday.

One of the feature contests of the night was the Mr. Relay event. Men participating in the event had to dress up like women and do a lap around the gymnasium, collecting donations from the crowd. The winner of the competition was Dale Etchison, who collected $308 in donations.

As the evening moved on the luminary bags that lined the floor were lit. The bags were decorated to honor both cancer survivors and people that have passed away. Placed inside each bag was a small candle – and when the lights where turned off, the glow of the bags filled the room. The names of people who had lost their fight were called aloud as people stopped to view the luminarias.

Denise Owens, who is the team development chair for Relay For Life of Central Ellis County, said 712 people registered for this year’s event. Although the event was moved indoors because of the weather she said she was still pleased about the turnout.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.