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Relay For Life Fills Ferndale Field With Hope

Participants donned Disney gear, helped celebrate life and raised funds to fight cancer during the 24-hour event Saturday through Sunday.

Even though the grey sky loomed ominously over 's football field and surrounding track Saturday, the mood at the was as upbeat as the Disney films represented by the teams participating in this year's event.

Shortly after the Fight Back Ceremony took place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, dark clouds hung over the venue, but barely a drop fell as the crowd played soccer and threw the football around the grassy field, children bounced on inflatables and participants played games to raise money for a good cause.

Little girls dressed as princesses and members of Ferndale High's orchestra rode a giant "Little Mermaid" clam-shell around the field as the sound of Bill Grogan's Goat drifted merrily from the sound stage.

Nick Kusch of Team Kusch stood in front of a house that was a replica from the movie Up. The structure was surrounded by a white picket fence and had a mailbox inscribed with a few handprints and the names "Carl" and "Ellie."

"We made it in my driveway," Kusch said. "It took a little over one day to construct it."

In the film, old-timer Carl is saddened by the loss of his wife, Ellie, who was a fellow adventurer and loving partner over many years. Carl attaches a sky full of helium balloons to their house and it drifts away -- unknowingly carrying a young wilderness explorer who was visiting in search of gaining his "aiding the elderly" badge.

The team had lifted spirits and welcomed onlookers to go inside the "house." Members were wearing wilderness explorer uniforms and said they would be playing the film during the evening hours. Team Kusch was part of The Regulators group, which raised $8,631 prior to the event, the second highest earner according to the event website.

Hanging out in the Monsters tent was Tinker the clown, who happily came to the event to entertain, make balloons and work some magic after his cousin, Kimberly Hughes, asked him to join her team.

"This is my 14th year going to a Relay," he said, and explained that those weren't in a row and weren't all in Ferndale.

Ferndale Relay for Life Chair Michele Sibula said the kids playing in the field were "just doing what they do" during the event. There was no planned practice or games going on. In the weeks before the event, she explained to Ferndale Patch that Relay was a "festival atmosphere." With its game booths, food tents, costumes and joyful music, it certainly seemed like a celebration during the daytime hours.

But at nightfall, the mood turned serious as a touching Luminaria Ceremony began. The luminaries, which were donated and decorated to honor survivors, loved ones lost to cancer and caregivers, were placed around the track to light the way of the Relay. The words "hope" and "cure" twinkled in the stands as a bagpiper led participants around the field.

Sibula said the event brings out many emotions.

“It's fun. It's touching. There are tears and there is laughter. It's just all those emotions rolled up into one feel-good day,” she said.

The event will wrap up with a Closing Ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday. Before the Relay on Saturday, the website claimed the total amount raised was $64,620.74. Many teams were selling services, merchandise and games to raise additional funds at the 24-hour event.

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