Miami County Relay for Life 2014 kicks off

By Michael Ullery

May 2, 2014

Melanie Yingst

Staff Writer

MIAMI COUNTY — Andrew Powis ran through the grass playing with his balloon sword, slicing at pretend monsters, pirates and other imagined enemies a typical 8-year-old boy battles in his mind.

Yet, Powis isn’t a typical boy and the battle he fights is very real – Powis still receives treatment for Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia.

He receives daily, weekly and monthly chemotherapy treatments at Dayton Children’s Hospital, according to his mother Jennifer Powis of Piqua.

Andrew was one of the cancer survivors who helped light the “Torch of Hope” at the 2014 Miami County Relay for Life opening ceremonies Friday night at the Miami County Fairgrounds.

Jennifer recounted the news of Andrew’s diagnosis when he was just 5 years old at Dayton Children’s Hospital almost three years ago.

“For a second, your life just stops,” she said in the middle of walking laps to raise awareness for cancer and for families affected by cancer. “But, as a mother you just suck it up and go in to Mom mode.”

Treatments, lab tests and countless trips to the hospital keeps the mother of five on her toes. Andrew is currently in “maintenance” of his battle with leukemia.

“It hit him and hit him hard,” she shared. “But all things considered, he’s done very, very well. It’s our life and it’s the new normal really.”

Although Andrew misses school due to illness and side effects from his treatments, he’s still a typical 8-year-0ld who loves to play sports.

“I couldn’t reach up to light it up,” Andrew said of the Torch of Hope ceremony. Andrew shared how he goes to school and enjoys special classes.

Friends and family rallied behind Andrew, who can’t wait for the day his port is removed so he can participate in wrestling alongside his uncle, who is a coach.

“I want to wrestle with my uncle,” he said, poking his balloon sword at various family members who came to the Relay for Life event to support him and thousands of others affected by cancer this weekend.

Miami County Relay for Life event chair Nicole Bolin said the organization raised approximately $236,000 in 2013 — $48,000 more than the 2012 event.

Bolin became involved with Relay for Life in 2005 in support of her best friend since eighth grade, Sabrina Garman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“When Sabrina was diagnosed in 2005, that was a shock to me,” Bolin shared. Sharing stories of her family members who have battled various cancers and then the disease striking her best friend, Bolin said her involvement with Relay for Life has grown over the years to raise money for Miami County cancer survivors.

“It’s great to support a cause like Relay for Life because it gets the community together to rally for support,” Bolin said.

Bolin shared how 70 cents from every dollar stays in Miami County. It is the 20th Relay for Life held in Miami County. This year’s theme is “20 years of Fighting Back.”

“It’s neat to see all the ways the teams have incorporated this year’s theme with their T-shirts, booths and fundraisers,” Bolin said. “It’s fun to see teams take that and turn it in to something in their own way.”

Bolin, 34, of Troy said more than 56 teams with more than 500 registered supporters have pledged their support for the American Cancer Society. Bolin’s team, Sab’s PAWS, was started for her best friend to support her fight with the disease. Bolin said the chapter hopes to reach its goal of $250,000 for 2014. Over the last 20 years, Bolin said the Miami County Relay for Life has raised more than $3 million.

Supporters will participate in the annual survivor’s lap, luminary ceremony and other events through noon today. To donate to the Miami County Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org and search for “Miami County, Ohio.”

Melanie Yingst can be reached at (937) 440-5254, email at myingst@civitasmedia.com or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews