Families fight cancer at annual Relay for Life

April 27, 2012 at 9:03 p.m.
Updated April 27, 2012 at 11:28 p.m.

"Bra Pong! Bra Pong!" shouts Emily Carroll, 9, while looking for players. Bra Pong earned Emily $136 for last year's Relay for Life event, and she hopes to do better this year. She encourages players to get "a hole in two."

"Bra Pong! Bra Pong!" shouts Emily Carroll, 9, while looking for players. Bra Pong earned Emily $136 for last year's Relay for Life event, and she hopes to do better this year. She encourages players to get "a hole in two."   Todd Krainin for The Victoria Advocate

When Timbo Kimball participated in the Relay fir Life on the First Baptist Church team for the first time last year, the 52-year-old knew he wanted to continue to be part of the event.

But he had no idea that he would miss this year's event at Coleto Creek Reservoir and Park because he would be recovering from a stem cell transplant.

Kimball has been fighting chronic lymphocytic leukemia since Nov. 9, 2009.

But he didn't completely miss the activities.

As his wife sat beside him at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, his daughters turned on their cellphone camera and made him part of the event.

His daughter, Sarah Foster, 30, and her husband, Matt Foster, 38, and their 5-year-old daughter, Jillian Foster, participated in the 16th annual Relay for Life on the First Baptist Church team for a second year along with his other daughter, Christin Kimball, 27, and her boyfriend, Chris Devos, 27.

His daughters gave his survivor testimony as he participated long distance through cellphone video chats.

"Last year, we felt the outpouring of love and wanted to be a part of it each year since," Christin Kimball said. "This walk helps support cancer research, to make it better and better."

She said she hopes one day more people will have access to stem cell treatment her father received.

Her sister agreed. It is hard to sit and watch a loved one suffer - powerless to help, Foster said.

"It's amazing that God has given people the talents to help treat cancer," Foster said. "Hopefully we can raise more money through this walk to help further that research."

The profits from booths featuring food, games, souvenirs and a silent auction were all donated to research for a cure for cancer.

In addition to raising money, the Relay for Life is a reunion for survivors, a memorial for loved ones lost and a support group for those who are still fighting.

White luminarias lined portions of the walking course in honor of individual cancer survivors and in memory of those who died from the illness.

The Guardians of the Ribbon fire truck and police car were also present at the event.

Kimball said it was an honor to gather together with other people in different stages in their fight against cancer.

"I know what they're going through," Kimball said. "You just have to keep going till you push through."

He said his favorite part of the Relay for Life is listening to the stories of the honorees who are in different stages of survival.

Christin Kimball agreed.

"To hear people say, 'This does get better,' and know you can look back and say, 'Four years ago, I got better.' That's a very powerful thing to hear," she said.

Some of the participants in Friday night's event walked in memory of a loved one they lost to cancer.

When Zeus Garcia, 29, learned that his great-grandmother, who he had never met, died of cancer, he decided he wanted to participate in the Relay for Life. He brought his 5-year-old son Aidan to participate with him Friday on the Home Depot team.

On the back of the team shirts were lists of family members of Home Depot employees who survived cancer and a memorial to those who have not.

Cheyenne Repper joined the Victoria East National Honor Society in walking to support the cause, but the fight against cancer hit particularly close to home for the 17-year-old.

Cheyenne said she was close to her great uncle, Max Harrell, who was in his 70s when he died in December after a fight against pancreatic cancer.

"I'm walking to support all cancer patients," Cheyenne said. "I just think it's a good event."

Kimball's granddaughter, Jillian, fuels his fight against cancer, Christin Kimball said.

"He'll tell us that he is done with the raising of me and my sister, but he's not through with her yet," Kimball said. "He wants to see her grow up and graduate - the whole nine yards."

The Relay walk was kicked off by a lap by all the cancer survivors present. Then the leaders of each team took a walk. At least one member from each team would remain on the walking track until 5:45 a.m. Saturday.

The support of family, friends and faith have held the Kimball family together during this struggle, they said.

"If you want evidence that this is a really good community, just look around you," Timbo Kimball said by telephone as the crowd cheered as the speakers blared the song, "It's a Wonderful World."



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