Relay for Life draws wide spectrum of people

If there's one thing that comes to a person's mind when observing the happenings at Bingham County Relay for Life it's that 'cancer doesn't discriminate.' The purple 'survivor T-shirts' worn by hundreds of men, women and children dotted the Blackfoot High School football field as over 2,500 volunteers, 58 teams and numerous cancer survivors gathered for the annual event Friday evening.
Everyone had a story-with cancer being the common theme — similiar but different — both heartbreaking and inspiring.
Jessica Pratt of Blackfoot, her husband Tyson and one-year old son Huntley, participated in the event to celebrate the fact that she is cancer survivor - now in remission. Pratt was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last year at the age of 25 shortly after her son, Huntley's, first birthday. The Pratt family chose a zebra theme for their team and were all sporting matching zebra tights in the spirit of the event.
"It's not every day I can get my boys out in tights," she joked.
Two-year-old Keilee Eldridge of Fort Hall, currently being treated for childhood leukemia, was enjoying the event being pushed in her stroller wearing her new pink and purple tutu. Sarah Padigimus of Blackfoot was selling the handmade tulle tutus (along with tulle headpieces) to raise money for the event. Keilee's father, Kenneth Eldridge, said Keilee is doing well but has to go to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City every week for blood transfusions.
Lisa Spears of Blackfoot, 39, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1998. Her mother has survived the same type of cancer and her brother is currently fighting lung cancer.
"There's a lot of things that we have done through the years that we know now cause cancer," Spears said, adding that her brother was exposed to asbestos. "If we knew then, what we know now...maybe there wouldn't be so much cancer."
Spears is looking forward to the birth of her first grandchild and said she lives every day to the fullest.
Frank and Audrey Merle of Blackfoot were enjoying the sunshine and the evening's entertainment by their son, Les Merle, also a cancer survivor (singing on the stage with Bob Marley). Frank is battling skin cancer and they lost their granddaughter to breast cancer at the age of 34.
"Our hearts belong here tonight," Audrey said.
This is the seventh year that Bingham County has conducted a Relay for Life Event, a major all night fundraiser for cancer research, and an opportunity to honor survivors and those who have lost their lives to cancer. Activities throughout the evening included a flag ceremony by Boy Scout Troop 210, local entertainment and games and a luminaria ceremony to honor loved ones who lost their lives to cancer.
Jana Rupe, team developer of Relay for Life, said last year's event raised well over $100,000 and they are hoping to exceed that amount this year. The exact amount raised this year won't be known until later in the summer as Relay for Life donations will be accepted through August.
One of the last Relay for Life events will be the Premier Technology Car and Bike Show on Aug. 4. All proceeds will go to Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. For entry information go to Contact Andy Hasselbring at 782-9142 or