As people did laps around the track at the Lincolnton High School stadium during Relay for Life on Saturday night, their heads were almost perpetually turned to read the inscriptions on the more than 1,000 luminaries lined around the track.
These luminaries weren’t just white paper bags with candles in them. They were a memorial to someone’s mother, brother, friend, teacher or family member who either lost their life to cancer, were survivors or still fighting the disease. Some of them had just a name printed on them, others were decorated with photographs, stickers, drawings and personal notes.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of Relay for Life in Lincoln County and East Lincoln Relay for Life joined with Lincolnton for a single event.
During the survivor’s walk, one of the youngest survivors in attendance, Austin Lute from Lincolnton, led the procession around the track. Lute was diagnosed with cancer when he was just 5 years old and fought the disease for another five years. At 10 years old, he’s cancer-free.
“That was pretty much my childhood,” he said. “Cancer. I feel enthusiastic being here because all the fans came out to see all of us walk together. It takes a team to beat cancer.”
During the caregiver and ensuing laps, Lute was accompanied by friends and family.
“He’s a strong kid and refused to give up,” his father, Dustin Lute, said. “He never once rejected his medicines. No matter how bad they were, he always took them. He always faced it with a smile on his face.”