FRIDAY'S RAIN did not dampen the spirits of those who came to celebrate life and remember loved ones at the sixth Relay for Life in Columbia, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Even as the skies emptied on the fields at Howard Community College, participants labored to light the luminaries that lined the track, in honor or in memory of those who have battled cancer.
John Secco and his daughter Lauren held umbrellas over members of Team Atholton, as they placed burning candles inside paper bags in memory of his late wife, Peggy Secco. A special education teacher at Atholton High School, Peggy, 53, died of ovarian cancer in January.
"It was a slow process, but we got all 15 luminaries lit with my wife's name on them," John Secco said. "They were still burning when we left."
John and Lauren Secco came to support the teachers and students who organized a team in memory of Peggy Secco.
"Peggy was a very sweet individual who loved the kids," said Marilyn "Binki" McKenna, media specialist at the high school and captain of the relay team. "Kids always came first with her. She had a level of patience that you had to admire. This year, we decided to dedicate all of our fund-raising efforts in honor of her."
Team Atholton raised more than $3,000 in pledges for the American Cancer Society. The team included students Meghan Bolton, Crystal Paire, Thomas Murrell, Matt Lauer, Shannon Lauer, Shieva Rajaee, Bobby Sutton and Stephen Taylor. Atholton teachers were represented by Kelmie Snider, Ann Mulhollen, Linda Shaw, Meridith Lowman, Heidi Bound, Josh Bound, Wendell Thomas, Jo Seibel, LuAnn Tyre and McKenna.
McKenna said she was pleased that the students chose to honor the memory of Peggy Secco by participating in Relay for Life. "To see the kids out there is such a positive thing. It's kind of a party atmosphere, but then there's a real solemn aspect. It's such a moving experience," she said.
John Secco said the outpouring from the Atholton High School community during the past couple of weeks has been emotional for him. "The school had an awards assembly about a week and a half ago," he said. "They had established a memorial scholarship in Peggy's name. When I got up to award the scholarship, I thanked the entire Atholton community for being so supportive of us.
"Everything from bringing food over to just being so thoughtful and kind, it's very meaningful when you go through something like this. I don't know if people realize how important it is to know that people really care."
Before the events began Friday, Lauren Secco, 19, a student at University of Maryland, College Park, said, "I just think it's incredible that the teachers and the kids want to show support for our family.
"I think that my mom would just be amazed. She would probably say to them that it's too much."
But Lauren added that she knew her mother was looking down at them and smiling as they walked around the HCC track.
HCC honorary degrees
Howard Community College has awarded honorary degrees to two women who embodied the ideals of leadership and community service: Leola M. Dorsey and Celonia B. Walden. The associate in arts degrees were awarded at the college's 30th commencement, held May 17 at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
As a leader in the community college movement, activist for civil rights and lifelong resident of Howard County, Dorsey was a member of the HCC board of trustees from 1973 to 1987.
Walden helped to establish the HCC Educational Foundation in 1978 and served as chairwoman of the foundation's board of directors from 1979 to 1983. The foundation raises funds for scholarships for HCC students.
Both women were inducted into the Howard County Women's Hall of Fame in 1997.
The Clemens Crossing PTA has elected new officers. They are Carole Bode, president; Sue Dotson, first vice president; Peggy Sheer, second vice president; Carolyn McLellan, recording secretary; Annette D'Amico, corresponding secretary; Judy Bandier, treasurer; Dan Dotson and Rick Wilson, PTA Council delegates; and Mike May, School Improvement Team representative.