On Saturday, nearly 300 people gathered into 29 teams at the sun-soaked Redmond High School track to help fight cancer in the American Cancer Society’s 13th Redmond-Kirkland Relay for Life.
The Relay for Life, held annually in communities around the world, has participants raise money for cancer research by continuously running or walking around a track or field for a full 24 hours. Teams consist of 8-15 participants and are encouraged to always have at least one member on the track at all times.
Teams work year long to secure donations from individuals and corporations with money going towards the American Cancer Society where it helps fund cancer research, cancer education awareness, and a multitude of free programs designed to ease the burden for cancer patients and their families.
According to Kelly Cochran, the local Community Relationship Manager for the American Cancer Society, this year’s Redmond-Kirkland Relay for Life raised close to $70,000 of the $90,000 goal.
While the money raised at Saturday’s event will help fund programs around the nation, the Redmond-Kirkland Relay for Life also serves to bring together the local community and increase awareness for cancer research and education.
Rose Guerrero, a director of cancer services at the Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, and Sue Smiley, a radiation oncology manager with the hospital, were both at the event as part of the hospital’s annual relay team and said that one in three women and one in two men are at risk of developing cancer in their life times. They spoke about the importance of educating people about cancer risks and believe that the Redmond-Kirkland Relay for Life provides a great opportunity for community members to learn more about cancer.
While describing the role in which Evergreen helps fight cancer Guerrero said, “we are in the hope business.” Guerrero and Smiley stressed that current research and new early detection techniques, in part funded by events like the Relay for Life, have greatly increased the survival rates for those diagnosed with cancer, bringing hope to patients and their families.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The heart and soul of any Relay for Life event are the volunteers and participants who work over the course of the year to plan, organize, and raise money for cancer awareness and research.
Many participants are cancer survivors themselves or have close personal ties to cancer patients
Cindy Sheehan, a seven-year breast cancer survivor, is participating in her seventh Relay for Life and has raised more than $6,000 in individual donations this year for cancer research.
For Sheenan, like many participants, the Relay is more than just a chance to fight for a cure, but is a personal statement of perseverance and remembrance.
“I have a real passion for the cause,” Sheehan said, describing her own battle with breast cancer and the loss of two of her siblings to cancer.
The deep mark cancer has left on Sheehan’s family, and her dedication to the Relay for Life, inspired her extended family to travel from as far away as Georgia and Iowa to participate in Saturday’s event.
Another participant, Leslie Burns, together with her relay team, the Super Cancer Eating Turtle Team, has raised more than $9,500 dollars this year for the American Cancer Association. Burns’ husband Lyle, for whom the team is dedicated, is a survivor of Multiple Myeloma and Burns’ brother-in-law and sister-in-law are also cancer survivors.
For those experiencing the devastating effects of cancer Burns said that “laughter is the best medicine,” and that families should try and stay positive.
A LOCAL BEGINNING
The Relay for Life began in Tacoma in 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society by walking around a local university track for a period 24 hours.
Today, the relay is held annually in more than 5,000 communities in the United States and around the world. A large portion of the research money collected through the national Relay for Life program is donated to local Puget Sound institutions to help study the causes and look for cures to cancer.
Anyone wishing to donate to Relay for Life can visit http://www.relayforlife.org/redmondkirklandwa. Donations for this year’s relay will be accepted until August 31.
Taylor Wirtz is a senior at the University of Washington and contributor to the Redmond Reporter.