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Relay for Life kickoff events held throughout NNY

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OGDENSBURG — Lawrence M. Caufield said he will share his role as honoree of the upcoming Relay for Life event, which benefits the American Cancer Society, with his family because members have both survived their own battles and supported him through his.

Mr. Caufield, 65, has participated in the Ogdensburg Relay for Life for the past decade. Within that time, he has fought skin cancer a half dozen times.

“Early detection and prevention — I highly recommend that,” he said.

The Caufield family’s cancer woes began about 1962, when Mr. Caufield was just 12 and his father died of inoperable lung cancer. Since then, one of his sisters was diagnosed with — and survived — breast cancer. Another sister survived skin cancer. A brother, Charles J., died in December 2008 of Stage 4 inoperable lung cancer. Another brother, Donald, was diagnosed a year ago with Stage 3 skin cancer that had spread into his jaw and neck, but he now is cancer-free.

Throughout the past 10 or 11 years that he has participated in Relay for Life events, Mr. Caufield said, he has met dozens of people who have both survived and supported people in cancer struggles. He’s also heard stories, he said, of many others who have died from the disease.

“So many other folks are as worthy of the honor as well,” he said of his recognition this year. “I was deeply touched and honored, and somewhat surprised” to be chosen as the honoree.

He will share his message of hope during the Ogdensburg Relay for Life kickoff event, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the cafeteria of Ogdensburg Free Academy, 1100 State St. The Relay for Life main event will be held June 20 and 21 at the same location.

Donald J. Boshart, community executive for the American Cancer Society, said funds raised at local Relay for Life events go toward research, education, advocacy and patient services. In 2013, he said, cancer patients and their families spent more than 1,700 nights at Hope Lodges throughout the nation. Hope Lodges offer patients a free place to stay when they travel to a faraway city for treatment, according to the organization’s website.

An Adams Center man, Benjamin R. Towles, 19, knows too well how important a large support system is. The South Jefferson community rallied to support him for the past three years through his struggles with Stage 3 diffuse large B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Mr. Towles has been in remission for about a year, according to his mother, Michelle R. Reff. Both Mr. Towles and Mrs. Reff will be honorees at this year’s Jefferson County Relay for Life event June 13 and 14 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds, Watertown.

Mr. Towles also received recognition Wednesday when he spoke during the Jefferson County Relay for Life kickoff event at the Ramada Inn, 6300 Arsenal St.

Mrs. Reff said both she and her son reviewed their experiences throughout the past three years when they went back onto their CaringBridge.org website. Reading through all of the emotional posts, especially parts involving loved ones and friends who have since died of cancer, Mrs. Reff said, was a hard part of preparing for his kickoff speech.

“We cried,” she said.

While Mr. Towles remains in remission, Mrs. Reff said, he has only one lung, so his immune system “isn’t where it should be.” That didn’t stop Mr. Towles from graduating from South Jefferson Central School in 2013, and beginning his plans to attend Jefferson Community College.

In June, family members and friends will join Mr. Towles and his mother on team Lymphocytes to walk in Jefferson County’s main Relay for Life event.

Momentum also is building in Lewis County for the Relay for Life kickoff event, which begins at 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Lowville Elks Lodge 1605, Shady Avenue.

Cancer survivor and Journal and Republican account executive Yvonne Houppert is the honorary chairwoman for Relay for Life events in Lewis County this year. Mr. Boshart said Mrs. Houppert’s husband, Kevin J., also will be honored for being his wife’s caregiver through her cancer struggle.

The main Lewis County Relay for Life event will take place May 30 and 31 at the Lewis County Fairgrounds, Bostwick Street, Lowville.

“If you’re even interested in the fight against cancer, come to the (kickoff) events,” Mr. Boshart said. “A lot of times people don’t know how to fight back. This gives them an avenue.”

A kickoff event was held last month for the Massena/Louisville Relay for Life event, which will be held June 6 and 7 at the Louisville Community Center, 44 Arena Drive, Chase Mills.

Last year’s area Relay for Life efforts raised $270,000 in Jefferson County, $110,000 in Lewis County and $65,000 in Ogdensburg. Teams participate from late one night until early the next day.

“Cancer never sleeps, so we take one night and don’t ourselves,” Mr. Boshart said.

For more information on specific events, enter a zip code at www.relayforlife.org.

cancer cases
A look at some of the most recent cancer statistics from the state Department of Health, regarding incidences from 2006 to 2010:
• St. Lawrence County: average annual case load was 634.6, mostly lung, prostate, colorectal, bladder, breast and body of the uterus cancers. The fewest cases included stomach and thyroid cancers.
• Jefferson County: average annual case load was 568.6, with the most prevalent cases the same as in St. Lawrence County, but many skin, oral cavity and non-Hodgkin cases also were reported. The fewest cases included Hodgkin lymphoma, larynx and liver cancers.
nLewis County: average annual case load was 161.8, with prevalence the same as other counties. The fewest cases included Myeloma and brain cancer.
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