The Brodells have seen cancer fundraisers grow from a patient on life support to one who is healthy and whole.
The couple, Dr. Robert Brodell and his wife, Dr. Linda Brodell, were around when Relay For Life first started in Warren in 1993 and were on hand as the annual event kicked off Friday at Courthouse Square.
It could be their last in Warren.
Supporters take the survivor lap around Courthouse Square on Friday during the Trumbull County Relay
In July, Robert Brodell begins a teaching position at the University of Mississippi. He said that although he is excited about the opportunity to teach, he will remain involved with cancer research and Relay For Life on the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line.
''Once you get the Relay For Life bug and see all the good it does for others, you want to stay,'' he said.
In Mahoning County, a Relay For Life event also stepped off Friday night, this on at Boardman Center Middle School on Market Street. About 70 teams were registered for the 18th annual Mahoning County event.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Dr. Robert Brodell, left, and his wife Dr. Linda Brodell lead their team around Courthouse Square on Friday during the opening of the Trumbull County Relay For Life.
The theme for the Boardman relay is surviorship. It is of five in Mahoning County this year and is the second to take place so far.
Last year, the Board Relay raised about $250,000, with some 120 teams walking the Boardman Middle School. The Boardman Relay for Life is the third largest in the state.
The largest Relay in Ohio is Warren, where Phil O'Hara, one of the co-chairs, said the Brodells, especially Robert Brodell, will be tough to replace.
''He is Relay For Life,'' O'Hara said. ''We'll miss his leadership and enthusiasm. He lives and breathes Relay For Life.''
The couple were in on the ground floor when the Warren relay began in 1993, and that came after they were involved in all kinds of different fundraisers that, while having good intentions, lacked some sort of spark to raise a lot of money for research.
''We just couldn't quite get that traction,'' Robert Brodell said.
He was at a conference in Florida when he heard of the Relay For Life and thought the event may work locally, he said.
Linda Brodell said what separates the Relay from other fundraisers is the sense of community it engenders.
This year, 49 teams with more than 300 participants are gathered in a tent city around Courthouse Square.
''It's a family event. It's the whole group working together,'' she said. ''Everyone has been touched by cancer. They're (relayers) very motivated.''
Judy Fox, who is on the Relay For Life committee, said it is Robert Brodell's enthusiasm that is key to getting others involved. She said he even has a special cheer to get participants fired up about the Relay.
''He brought a lot of life and a lot of enthusiam,'' Fox said. ''He actually made you want to go. It's going to be quiet and it's going to be lonely,'' she said of when he is gone.
Brodell said he and his wife deserve none of the credit for making the relay grow. He said it is the volunteers and those who have been touched by cancer who have made the event what it is today.
''It's not me or Linda and it's not the staff people,'' Brodell said. ''It's the event itself that just catches the imagination of the community.''