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Relay sends a message of hope

Glenville resident Paula Symanski was working one day when a customer's young daughter started a conversation that would change her life. Symanski said the girl started telling her how excited she was to go on her first camping trip. What she was actually referring to was the Scotia-Glenville Relay for Life, which was started by her uncle, Keith Davidson.

Symanski said from that moment on she was intrigued, and four years later she is co-chair of the program that has not only changed the lives of local cancer patients and their families but of Symanski as well.

To me, initially, forming a team and walking all night long sounded like fun, said Symanski. "What would come out of it was more than I had ever anticipated."

Symanski said that although she has known many people who have battled cancer, it became very personal when her stepmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her battle lasted 10 years.

She said Davidson gave her stepmother a survivor pin, which she wore to every doctor's appointment and throughout her chemotherapy treatments. After her stepmother died, Symanski was frantically looking for the pin for the funeral. Symanski said she called Davidson asking for another pin, not knowing he was in Virginia for a family wedding. She said he never said where he was but instead hopped in the car and drove all night to get another pin to her the day of the funeral.

"He came to me with a handful of pins, not remembering exactly which one matched the pin she wore. I never knew what he had done to get me that pin. That is the kind of family and support system the American Cancer Society is," said Symanski.

Davidson lost his mother to cancer and shortly after founded Relay For Life in the Capital District. Now in it's seventh year, each spring the relay has raised thousands of dollars for local cancer patients. Davidson works out of the Queensbury office of the American Cancer Society and said seeing the Scotia relay grow over the years has been very rewarding.

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