For fourteen years the outdoor stadium at Skyview High School was the venue for the annual Relay for Life to benefit cancer research through the American Cancer Society. An event that became a community tradition and expression of unity in fighting to find a cure that has caused suffering and death to so many loved ones. Through the years of rain, wind, and mosquitoes hoards the fight continued with new survivors and relay teams joining every year. This year the organizing committee decided to move the Relay to the Soldotna Sports Center so that in the event of rain or harsh weather the walk could continue indoors. "And of course when you prepare for rain the sun shines!" laughed Johna Beech this year's event chair. "The community once again rallied to raise money to fight cancer and the weather being nice everyone wanted to stay out doors through the night. We had more than 105 survivors at the dinner and during the survivors lap we also honored their care givers during the second lap and that was a meaningful experience this year," she said.
Susan Smalley has participated in the local Relay for Life for the last 12 years and says it becomes more meaningful every year, "It was after my second Relay for Life that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and it became more meaningful to me at that point because even though I had my mom's cancer, I didn't have her treatment. We're making progress, surviving and living longer, that's why continuing to Relay is so important. Even though the list of those we have lost gets longer every year, so does the list of survivors, and what we celebrate every year is that you are not alone when you are diagnosed with cancer and the Relay for Life event is kind of like a reunion or all night slumber party for those whose lives have been touched by cancer," she said.
Just before the survivors lap 10-year-old Joey Youkowski who was diagnosed with cancer when only three years old climbed up on stage, stepped up to the microphone and loudly proclaimed, "Cancer sucks!" He then eloquently told of his experience with cancer over the last seven years, the successes, support of family and community as well as the discouraging relapses that finally led him to being able to do the things that every other kid his age is doing. He then joined is fellow survivors of all ages in leading the survivors lap.
There were nearly 400 participants in this year's Relay for Life including 105 survivors making up 33 teams. Top team money raisers were Heritage Place/CPH at $9,122 and counting, Nikiski Bulldogs at $8,783, and WalMart Warriors at $6,849. Top individuals were Peggy Rogers at $2,433, Neal DuPerron $1,390 and Nora Ribbens at $1,313. "Another highlight of this year's Relay was our emcee Dan Pascucci he was tremendous and a special shout out to Alaska's Official Balladeer Hobo Jim for headlining our closing ceremonies," added Beech. Sponsor this year included Platinum Sponsor: ERA Gold Sponsor: City of Soldotna, Silver Sponsor: Central Peninsula Hospital, Stanley Ford, Fred Meyer, Arby's, Soldotna Rotary, and Providence Alaska Medical Center.
This year's Relay Committee set a goal $95,000 to aid in cancer research and by press time $76, 550 had been reached toward that goal. The 2011 Relay raised $77, 900, but Beech said they expect to exceed that amount and are still working to reach their goal of $95K, "We will be having a post wrap-up party and set the committee for the 2013 Relay so anyone who wants to be involved can get in touch with me at 394-6006 or send me an e-mail at email@example.com or to help us reach our goal for this year you can donate until the end of August at www.relayforlife.org/kenaiak.