It may be true that Relay for Life events in recent years have seemed a bit smaller than those in the glory days of a few years ago, but that hasn’t stopped the same longtime teams from raising big sums of cash to support cancer research.
Each year, hundreds and sometimes thousands of participants gather at the track at Hoquiam High, and most who attend know someone who was lost to cancer or is fighting it. This year’s 24-hour relay starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 31.
The event starts off with a lap for survivors of cancer and caregivers as a way to honor them. After that, the walk goes on throughout the night, with some themed laps, such as a “pajama party” at midnight.
Near the beginning is also the Luminaria Ceremony, where a candle is lit for every person touched by cancer, which includes survivors, those lost and those held by supporters. Near the track, a line of boards covered in plain paper bears the names of hundreds of family members whose names inspire walkers.
Throughout the year, teams compete to raise the most money through fundraisers, bake sales, auctions and more. All the funds go to the American Cancer Society to fund research. As of Monday, Team Bob, the perennial winner, had raised just under $21,000, followed by Jenny’s Joggers/Tom’s Trotters at $14,532, the East Grays Harbor team at a little over $5,000 and Aunta’s Angels at around $4,000.
The event provides hope for attendees by showing just how many people are touched by the disease, but it can be tough. Jackie “Mimi” Oliver, who lost one of her daughters to cancer 10 years ago, said she usually goes inside one of the auction tents when the Survivor Lap takes place; she doesn’t watch it because of the sad feelings it brings up.
Nicole Martin is the volunteer chairwoman organizing this year’s event. She said it’s important to her as a way to continue fighting cancer as a community until there’s a cure.
Some new events this year include a silent auction called the Honor Auction, where people can make a basket in honor of someone lost to cancer or still battling it. The basket would include a photo and description of the person, and items they loved or things that remind their loved ones of them.