By Donna Rhodes
HOLDERNESS — It was a day to raise funds, inspire hope and strength, and to remember those lost to cancer as the 14th Annual Day to Fight Cancer got underway last Saturday on the grounds of the Plymouth State University field house.
Each year, the event benefits the nonprofit organization Keeping You, Me and Memories Alive, and is a day filled with a wide variety of activities for people of all ages. Booths set up on the front lawn invited people to enjoy face painting, Colors of Cancer nail art, games, a silent auction, dollar sale, and tee shirt tie-dying. There was also a barbecue and plenty of live entertainment from Art Harriman, The Uncle Steve Band, Chris White Band, Pardon the Spins, Jim Tyrell, Juggling Jim and other local groups.
But perhaps the most important activity took place all around the field where luminaries lined a walking path for groups who came out to help raise funds for KYMMA. This year just one group alone, Team Vacuum, presented the organization with $1,300 from people who sponsored their efforts.
Others helped by sponsoring one of the many luminaries, which they decorated in honor of a loved one who was diagnosed with cancer. Some of the candlelit white bags had words of encouragement and cheer while others celebrated the life and memory of someone lost to the disease. All were thought provoking and walkers often paused to reflect on the many lives affected.
KYMMA was formed in 1999, and the annual walk, once known as the “Walk to Fight Cancer,” was founded by former PSU student Melissa Merrill who lost her mother to cancer. Over the years, it has raised more than $225,000 to assist residents of 23 local communities.
Through KYMMA local cancer patients are supported in a variety of ways, from gift cards for gas, prescriptions, or groceries, to help with heating fuel, utility bills, home repairs, school clothes and other needs. Signs along the walking route last week showed just how much that assistance has meant to area residents.
“You are the angels I hear about here on earth. Really!” read one of the many testimonies.
Another grateful benefactor wrote, “This comes from my heart for all your help. I thank God that there are people like you. God Bless You.”
KYMMA president Kathy Melanson was excited by this year’s turnout, and grateful for all the volunteers and businesses who lent their assistance through time, talents, food, and other fund raising donations.
“Without their support, we couldn’t do what we do. This is all about neighbors helping neighbors because you never know when it’s going to be you,” Melanson said.
One subtle change this year was noted when KYMMA volunteers looked at the luminaries they set out for the walk. For the first time, they noticed that the number of candlelit bags in honor of cancer survivors outnumbered the luminaries that were presented in memory of a loved one.
“That’s very telling of where we’ve come,” said Melanson.
To become a KYMMA volunteer, make a donation or get more information on the organization, visit http://www.memoriesalive.org.