TB&#8200;file&#8200;photo<br> Participants light luminarias during the 2009 Van Wert County&#8200;Relay for&#8200;Life Luminaria Ceremony.
TB file photo
Participants light luminarias during the 2009 Van Wert County Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony.

BY KIRK DOUGAL

Times Bulletin Editor

kdougal@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Dictionary.com says a "remembrance" is a retained mental image or commemoration. When hearing the word in a sentence, the vast majority of people would instantly recognize the meaning and understand what was being said. But dictionary.com goes on to say the word has other meanings including "a gift given as a token of love or friendship."

It is not often that one event can so completely capture two different definitions.

The Van Wert County Relay For Life weekend event for 2010 is just around the corner and one of the most touching portions takes place just after dark on Friday night. The Luminaria Ceremony of Hope is a signature event that is celebrated at every Relay For Life. To look at the physical materials involved, a viewer might wonder how important it could be with only a few everyday items used. A two-liter plastic bottle is cut in half and the lower portion is partially filled with sand. Into this is stuck a candle which is later lit during the ceremony. On the outside of the bottle is a sticker with a name on it.

But the meaning of the Luminaria is as profound as the materials are simple. During the ceremony, the Relay For Life event stops for the only time during the all-night walk. Everyone remains silent as the names of each person listed on the bottles are named and the candle is lit.

This is where the two meanings of the word "remembrance" converge. Every name in the ceremony belongs to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and beaten it into remission, remains in a deadly struggle, or has fallen to the disease. For some in attendance, the Luminaria is the memory of their own fight. To others, the lit candle is a token of love to the memory of a fallen family member or friend.

"It touches everybody in a different way," said Amy Schroeder, Relay For Life Event Chair for Van Wert County. "Whether you've lost somebody - everybody knows a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker - or it can be for a survivor. We definitely want to celebrate our survivors as well as remember those that we've lost. It is a very touching moment."

This year is the 26th year of Relay For Life and Van Wert County will be sharing in the worldwide celebration. The event will start Friday, May 7 at 6 p.m. at the Marsh Foundation and last through Saturday morning, May 8. The Survivors' Walk and opening ceremonies will kick off what is intended to be a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, a remembrance for those touched by cancer and some fun for the participants.

Because of the growth in the local event, it was moved to the Marsh Foundation last year so it could have room to continue to grow. Schroeder said the county has many strong teams this year who have been raising money for the cause as well as preparing to walk in the relay all night long through whatever the weather throws at them.

People who would like to honor friends and family members in the Luminaria Ceremony can still purchase them right up until the service at approximately 9 p.m. on Friday night. The cost is ten dollars and all of the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.