photo by Shane Kantzer
“My aunt died of cancer when she was only 46 year old.”
“My wife is going through cancer treatments for the second time.”
“I never want my children to have to hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’”
Over 800 people participated in the first ever Relay for Life Lake Stevens and each of them had their own reason for joining in this very important and life-changing cause.
Relay for Life truly is life changing, not just for those who walk the track, lap after lap, but also those who benefit from research dollars, legislative advocacy, the Cancer Survivors Network and all of the other programs offered through the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Tom Huxford, a research scientist working in his own lab at San Diego State University and an American Cancer Society research grant recipient, spoke at Opening Ceremonies. His words gave participants hope in knowing that every day scientists are working diligently to ensure that when a doctor tells someone they have cancer those are not the only words they have to hear.
He explained that more and more, patients are told they have cancer quickly followed by words explaining their treatment options. Less people are leaving the doctor’s office feeling hopeless because more research is being done. Knowing that treatments are changing every day and more people are surviving cancer make the diagnosis a little less daunting.
After words of welcome were shared, cancer survivors wearing purple shirts stepped onto the track at Lake Stevens High School to begin the 24-hour relay. Each received a medal for their brave efforts while fighting their own battle with cancer. The crowd followed behind them as Relay got underway.
The day was filled with sunshine and music, a plethora of activities and many new friendships.
As darkness fell, so did the rain but the crowds held out and walkers, runners and kids in strollers continued their laps around the track.
Soon it was time for the luminaria ceremony.
Loving sentiments were written on white sacks which filled half of the large stadium. LED lights were placed in each bag and all other lights were turned off. Soft words were spoken to remind us of those who are or have battled cancer, many who are living and others who were not able to overcome the disease.
Even in the pouring rain, this was the climax of the day’s events bringing the reality of how cancer has touched the lives of so many, to the surface. Tears streamed down the eyes of many as everyone at Relay held small lights and walked the dark track in remembrance of those they love.
“The people of Lake Stevens have been so supportive throughout this entire event. Even through the weather they really stuck it out. The rain was like our loved ones crying tears of joy down on us,” Jennifer Holocker, Community Relationship Specialist for The American Cancer Society said.
The people of Lake Stevens surpassed the goals set by The American Cancer Society by leaps and bounds. The asked the community to raise at least $50,000, sign up 35 teams and register no less than 25 survivors.
Once again, the citizens and businesses in Lake Stevens stepped up to the challenge with 78 teams, 82 survivors and as of closing ceremonies they had raised over $145,000.
After months of continued work and effort, Kim Demary, Relay for Life Lake Stevens Chair, had many words of thanks for all of those involved.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” she said. “This was a huge dream, that the community made come true. We are still fundraising, just because Relay is over, we are not done. We have until August 31 to reach our fundraising goal, please continue to still support us, you truly are making a difference!”
Many of those raising money were kids. These kids were an inspiration not just with the amount of money they were able to raise but also with their energy and stamina throughout the Relay.
“They are amazing! We have three kids in the Top 10 overall in fundraising, totaling $4,000 between the three of them,” Demary said. “They are the future of cancer research, getting them involved ensures that the funds will keep coming in for years to come. I hope that they turn into 20 or 30 year Relayers.”
Demary will continue to chair the 2012 Relay for Life Lake Stevens and is looking for more committee members to help make the event even bigger and better.
“This year was about educating the community about what we are doing. I can only expect that our number of participants will double next year. We will be bigger and better,” she said. “That being said, our committee this year had 35 members. Next year we need to double that. There is a place for everyone at Relay. We start planning in August, so if you want to help let me know.”
Fundraising dollars will continue to roll in with the 2011 event closing their books on August 31, 2011. The hopes of the Relay for Life Committee is to raise $250,000 by that day. To contact Demary email her at email@example.com.