Diane Dea lost her sister Linda Sipe at age 48 to cancer 10 years ago. The family’s devastating loss seemed even harder, she recalled, because of how rapidly it all happened. Just 13 days after admission to the hospital and being diagnosed with cancer, her sister passed away on Dea’s birthday.
Not long after that, Sipe’s three daughters, who were teenagers or in their 20s at the time, signed the family up as a team for Relay for Life to remember Linda and other family and friends they had lost to cancer, and as a way to support the fight against cancer. The family decided to name the team Aunta’s Angels. “Aunta” is what one of Sipe’s nephews often called her, and it stuck.
Ten years later they still participate in the Relay, with a large turnout of up to 30 family members and friends who man their booth at the Hoquiam event. For Dea and her large extended family, Relay for Life represents both a way to combat cancer, and to remember those lost to the disease.
“It’s been especially healing, and it’s a way to support each other and help drive home that we’re not alone in this,” she said.
So far in the 2019 standings, Aunta’s Angels is the No. 4 fundraising team for the Grays Harbor Relay for Life, with $4,012 raised as of Monday. Relay for Life asks teams to see how much fundraising they can do throughout the year and during the event, with all of the money going to the American Cancer Society to fund cancer research.
The Relay runs all night Friday and into Saturday afternoon at the Hoquiam High School athletic fields.
Aunta’s Angels doesn’t have someone on the track at all times, but there is always someone manning the booth, which has goodie baskets and baked goods made by Sipe’s mother, Jackie Oliver, including cinnamon rolls and cookies.
Dea lives in Auburn now, but her family grew up in the Aberdeen and Hoquiam area. She said her sister was always willing to help out others, and she had an infectious smile and laugh.
“She had her quirks, wanted to be first like the youngest siblings always do, and we all miss her,” said Dea.
Throughout the year, Aunta’s Angels runs a few different fundraisers, including bowling nights, a holiday bazaar at St. Andrew’s Church, quilt raffles and bake sales.
Aside from Sipe, the family has lost several other members to cancer in recent years. Dea said her niece Jojo died from cancer several years ago at age 28. She also lost a good friend, Bill Thomas, to cancer a few months ago, as well as two uncles years ago.
Dea said her favorite part of the Relay for Life is the Survivors Lap. She said it lifts her spirits to see those she knows and others fighting cancer walking around the track.
“They’re friends and people you’ve known off and on throughout your life,” said Dea. “And it gives you a lot of hope to see them out there.”
At this year’s Relay for Life, Aunta’s Angels will again be submitting several gift baskets for the silent auction, including one with garden supplies, another with kitchenware, and one for kids with toys based on Groot, the tree character from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies.
Jackie White, one Dea’s longtime friends, took over as the team captain this year after Dea’s mom decided to step down from the role. She said it’s always enjoyable to be watching the Relay and suddenly notice people from all areas of her life seem to be participating in the event.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the camaraderie of everyone fighting cancer,” said White. “You’re sitting there and suddenly realize, ‘Hey there’s my nurse on that team,’ or ‘That insurance agent I know is in the lead.’”