Each year millions walk - in memory of family or friends who lost their battle or in celebration of survival - to raise funds for cancer research in hopes that in their lifetime they will see a cure.
Shari Tuttle of Poland, said she was intrigued when witnessing her first 24-hour walker while participating in Relay for Life as part of a former employer's team. For her, it became a personal challenge. Sharing that she went so far as to call the American Cancer Society, asking to be put in touch with someone who had done it, Tuttle said she didn't want to simply do it on a whim she wanted to be successful, planning mentally and physically. She said the book of that fellow 24-hour walker and author helped her and her husband, Bob Tuttle, in their success.
During Relay, teams choose a theme and using that theme, decorate a tent, design shirts and a banner, develop an educational message and host a children's game.
Photo by Kathleen Palumbo, Town Crier correspondent
Shari and Bob Tuttle of Poland, will take to the track in Cortland this year as they celebrate their 10th year participating in Relay for Life. The Tuttles are successful 24-hour walkers in the annual event.
"My favorite part of Relay is enjoying the creative interpretation of all the themes, of all the teams," said Tuttle. "I just love opening ceremony, where the teams parade around the track, showing their hard work in creating a whole message around their theme," she said, adding that she and her husband enjoy taking the time to visit the tents.
Tuttle said her husband's favorite part of the Relay is "knowing the good that we can do in people's lives. It is a very emotional time for us, and it is very humbling to us that nine years ago, people who were complete strangers were willing to send us donations on behalf of the American Cancer Society."
Tuttle said that in their first year walking, they raised $865 in donations from coworkers, and that in the 10 years she and her husband have been walking, including this year's fundraising, they have raised more than $40,000.
"We've not been able to stop. I feel like our efforts our money will make a difference," said Tuttle, adding that she prays that they will see a cure in their lifetime.
In preparation for Relay, Tuttle said she begins walking on a treadmill in January, gradually increasing in miles and frequency, and then delivers fliers to approximately 6,000 homes throughout Poland in support of their team. Walking several nights weekly, Tuttle said the last week before the event, they reduce their walking schedule to give their bodies a chance to rest.
Training for the event also includes dietary changes, resting for the greater part of the day on the day of Relay, and mental preparation. As veteran walkers, Tuttle said, "We realize that there will be times when it will be difficult to walk around the track. But we also remind ourselves that this pales in comparison to what a cancer survivor endures, and they are the reason we do this."
In the weeks following Relay, Tuttle said she and her husband will personally hand deliver thank-you notes to all of their sponsors.
"We are so humbled by the support we receive, and we want our donors to know that we appreciate their support with great sincerity," she said. "I believe those who have supported us repeatedly have come to look forward to our visits. We have developed a special bond with those who are willing to contribute to finding a cure for cancer. We could not raise this amount of money without their help, and we want them to know they are special to us."
In addition to participating in Relay together, Tuttle said she and her husband enjoy motorcycling, having traveled out West three times.
"We put more miles on our motorcycle in a summer than we do on our cars in a year," said Tuttle, adding that when not riding, she enjoys cross-stitch, Sudoku, and ringing bells in church, while her husband enjoys music and working on the motorcycles.
An accountant, Tuttle was born and raised in Liberty while her husband, a retired UPS driver, is originally from Pittsburgh. Their family includes Tuttle's two sons, her husband's three daughters, and two grandsons.
Having walked over the years at the Boardman, Liberty, and Warren Relay for Life events, this year the Tuttles will participate in the Cortland Relay for Life. Their team welcomes tax deductible donations made payable to the American Cancer Society. Online donations can be made at www.relayforlife.org/cortland and then following the "Donate" link and searching for "Tuttle" in the last name box. Additional information can also be acquired by contacting Bob Tuttle at 330-774-3830.