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Cancer Walk keeps memories alive

by Theresa Ludwick, Record Enterprise

Kathryn Melanson and Lyndsay Devine 10/04/2007 - PLYMOUTH - An estimated 150 people participated in last Saturday's 8th annual Walk to Fight Cancer in Plymouth last Saturday. The walk, hosted by Plymouth State University, took place at Arold Field in Plymouth from 12 p.m. to midnight, and included activities such as face painting and music by various artists, all of whom donated their time. A dollar raffle offered the chance to win a number of items donated by area businesses, and Locks of Love provided people with the opportunity to donate their hair for the purpose of creating wigs for chemotherapy patients.

(Photo: Cancer Walk organizer Kathryn Melanson and her daughter Lindsay Devine sell luminaries to supporters during the event Saturday afternoon at Plymouth State University.)

The walk was organized by Keeping You, Me, and Memories Alive, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting central New Hampshire cancer sufferers and their families. Proceeds also go to help the families of those who have passed on. Moneys provide individuals and families with groceries, gas, home heating fuel, college textbooks, and numerous other needs and supplies. Participants in the walk included staff and several sports teams from the university, as well as individuals and families of past and present cancer patients.

The walk began as the heart-child of former Plymouth State sophomore student, Melissa Merrill, who lost her mother to breast cancer in 1999. Melissa began the walk in her mother's memory and though she has since moved on, her legacy has grown substantially and been taken over by dedicated individuals like Kathryn Melanson, president of the organization, and vice-president Cindy Leverone. With their help and the help of numerous volunteers, Memories Alive has raised $100,000 in the last eight years.

Luminary on Cancer Walk Both women were busy taking registrations and selling luminaries and commemorative t-shirts and sweaters for the event. Assisting, among others, was Melanson's daughter, Lyndsay Devine. Melanson lost her sister, Sharyl Oswald, to the disease in 2002, only a month after her 45th birthday.

(Photo: A lone luminary keeps hope alive during the Cancer Walk in Plymouth on Saturday.)

Though she lived in Pensacola, Florida, Melanson's sister grew up in Plymouth. "A tumor was discovered deep in the middle ear, but the diagnosis came too late." Melanson wants people to know that there are resources in Plymouth for cancer patients and their families. The money raised here, stays here, rather than being swallowed up by a national organization. "We keep the money local," she says. One important feature of the event was the lighting of the memorial luminaries at dusk. The luminaries, purchased for $5 by individuals and decorated by them or by volunteers, lined the walking course and, when lit, inspired a hushed reverence. The thought that each luminary - there were over 300 - represented the passing of a loved one, was sobering. "After a day of fun and celebration," Melanson says, "the evening is more melancholy with the luminaries on the walkway and luminaries on the bleachers spelling out 'HOPE.'" The message can be seen from Interstate 93, she says. It's a message we all can use.

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