ELYRIA — Bill Ruth waved his gold cowbell and cheered every time the girl ran by.
Ruth, wheelchair-bound and a cancer survivor, watched in awe as the girl ran 50 laps, then 60 and on to 70. She’d been there since at least 10 a.m. Friday, a student at Lorain County Community College who came out to Elyria Catholic High School’s track to support the Relay for Life event.
As the girl came up on her 79th lap, Ruth readied his cowbell and relaxed his vocal chords to prepare for the onslaught of shouting and glee he was about to let loose, but this time the girl did something different.
“She came up to me and said she was going to take me out on her 80th lap,” the 75-year-old said. True to her word, when the girl came around again she grabbed the handles on the back of his wheelchair and began pushing him around the track. They completed her 80th lap together.
“I waved the bell the whole time,” he said.
To Ruth, that little tale pretty much sums up what Relay for Life is all about: People coming together for a common good, to have fun and give hope in the face of a despicable disease.
“It gives you faith,” he said. “It makes you appreciate every day.”
Relay for Life, a series of national community events sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is dedicated to giving people a chance to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones they’ve lost and fight back against the disease.
Ruth knows more than he cares to about that battle. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer 11 years ago, and it’s gone away several times since then, only to crop back up every five years or so, said his wife, Sally. His wife’s sister passed away from cancer a few years ago, as did one of their sons-in-law.
Their family convinced the Ruths to attend the Relay for Life this year, and to do it big. The couple, along with four daughters, some grandchildren and a few friends, set up a tent along the track, which included a game where kids could, for $1, pick out a rubber ducky from a container of water and pick out a prize, which included little plastic toys and some cartoon trading cards.
“They think they need to pick the right duck, but everyone wins,” said Sally Ruth, 70. They also had two baskets filled with donated goodies — one with $150 worth of gift cards and the other with $250 in jewelry.
Dozens of families and organizations set up similar tents, some selling food, hand-made wares or raffled items, with all the money raised donated to cancer organizations.
The event began 10 a.m. Friday and continues until 7 a.m. this morning. Luminarias lit up the field at 9 p.m., and the flames bounced off quarters that people placed on the track every time they walked or ran a lap, which were also donated.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.