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Cancer fund-raising relays take new route

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By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

Both Buckley and Enumclaw's American Cancer Society Relay For Life fund-raising events move forward in 2004 with new leadership, new locations and new dates.

Cancer survivor and Enumclaw Mayor John Wise, along with city clerk Marcia Hopkins, will co-chair Enumclaw's Relay For Life, scheduled for June 18 and 19 in downtown Enumclaw.

Buckley's Relay For Life will be spearheaded by co-chairs Lori Wells of Mt. Rainier National Bank and Rosa Villa, of the Buckley Kiwanis, June 4 and 5 at the new White River High School.

Relay For Life is a community event designed to raise money for research and programs, draw awareness to the deadly disease, educate people on how to prevent and detect cancer when possible and celebrate the lives of those who have won the battle against one of America's top killers.

Teams of 12 to 18 walkers from businesses, churches, schools, organizations, families and neighborhoods join with cancer survivors (the honored guests) and their families for the 18-hour event. It works like this: one member of each team should be on the track throughout the event, whether walking, running, wheel chairing or sitting in a lawn chair on the track. Each team participant is asked to raise flat donations (not pledges per lap).

Each American Cancer Society Relay For Life kicks off with cancer survivors walking the first lap. The team participants then start their rotations for the rest of the event. After dark, luminary bags are lit in honor of those surviving/battling cancer and in memory of those who have lost their lives to the disease. The luminary candles stay lit throughout the night, motivating the walkers through their paces. Entertainment, carnival activities and kids activities, colorful decorated tents, prizes, games and fun for all ages round out the Relay For Life experience. There is also information about the American Cancer Society's educational programs, research, patient services and advocacy efforts.

Organizers call the American Cancer Society Relay For Life a celebration of life because rapidly advancing technology, early detection and education about prevention are creating more cancer survivors today.

Volunteering to help Wise and Hopkins in Enumclaw thus far are Enumclaw police detective Heidi Hoffman, logistics; Enumclaw Community Hospital's Roberta Dutcher, education; Enumclaw chamber director Cathy Rigg, sponsorship and publicity; Enumclaw Downtown Partnership leader Genna Nashem, entertainment and activities; real estate agent Ann Hilaro, Relay store, and cancer survivor Marilyn Hash, survivors ceremonies.

Enumclaw's first two relays were at J.J. Smith Elementary School and moved last year to Thunder Mountain Middle School. Each event took place in August. Planners hope the new downtown site will draw more interest and attention. They also hope an early summer date will encourage more teams since its less likely to interfere with vacation plans.

The downtown location include entertainment in Goodwill Park and a walking route that follows Railroad Street, Washington Avenue, First Street and Griffin Avenue.

Last year's Enumclaw event drew 15 teams; more than 250 participated and they raised close to $40,000.

LaMarco Mitchell, the American Cancer Society organizer for Enumclaw, said Enumclaw's big need now is teams and sponsorships. Mitchell said the group is looking for team captains who are motivated. A team captain's responsibilities includes filtering information back to team members and coming up with fund-raising ideals.

"We don't want anyone to be out there alone," Mitchell said. "It's (the team aspect) symbolic of cancer patients. They need that support. The team structure makes it more fun - working together for a cause - the cause of ending cancer."

Enumclaw's next meeting is at 6 p.m., Jan. 6, at the Enumclaw Public Library. For more information contact Hopkins at 360-825-3591.

In its first year last year, Buckley's American Cancer Society Relay For Life saw 13 teams raise $26,000. This year's goal is $35,000.

According to Michelle Van Hoff, Buckley's American Cancer Society organizer, the leadership committee is looking for team captains, committee members and sponsors.

"We're looking for it all," she said. "It's like starting all over again."

To help get things rolling, Buckley planners will host a kickoff event at 10 a.m. Jan. 24 at the Buckley Library. A continental breakfast is planned and information will be available for those who are interested in forming teams or volunteering to help. For more information contact Van Hoff at 1-800-729-3880 ext. 229.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com

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