A large group of people wearing purple T-shirts reading “Survivor” stood in front of the stage at the Havre High School track Friday night.
They were taking part in Relay for Life, the annual celebration that raises money for the fight against cancer. And the folks in purple T-shirts were the heroes, the ones who have fought back or are fighting back against cancer.
Some have been free of cancer for decades. Others are still undergoing treatment.
Some of the people had given emotional speeches recounting how they learned they had cancer, how they fought back, how they received moral support from friends, relatives and others who have bounced back from cancer.
Tears welled up in the eyes of most people in the audience.
Kristi Shettel from Northern Montana Hospital got the crowd excited.
“Get the energy back, ” she implored the crowd. “It’s time to fight back. ”
It’s been a long, hard fight against cancer, she said. But research is moving forward, and there is good news.
“You are some of the strongest, bravest people I know, ” she said. “Someday we will win this fight. ”
Then the survivors formed a group behind a purple banner, and they were ready to go.
Sue Swan read off the names of the survivors and the PA system played Bill Withers “Lean on Me. ”
As the survivors finished their walk around the track, they were greeted with cheers, applause and tears.
People would continue walking around the track for the rest of the night, but none of the walks would be as emotional as this one.
The event has already raised $50,000 for the American Cancer Society, and people have until August to turn in more money.
Throughout the night, people took part in various fun activities to raise money.
Two people shaved their heads:
• Kathy Kostelnik agreed to have her hair shaved and donated to Locks of Love after members of her Triangle team agreed to donate $675;
• and T. J. Daulton raised $375 from members of his Havre Jacyees.
Locks of Love makes wigs from the hair that is donated. The wigs are given to people who lose their hair because of cancer treatments.