At every Relay for Life, cancer survivors don purple shirts to represent the battle forged between the patient and the uphill battle before them. Each warrior brings with them someone that has been with them every step of the way, someone that walks inch by inch beside them on their way to battle. The caregivers.
The Kenai Peninsula Relay For Life Kick-off event was Friday night at the Kenai Christian Center. About 30 participants learned of changes to this year’s Relay, and heard from guest speakers who emphasized the importance of the event.
The venue will be the Soldotna Sports Center. There will be a carnival atmosphere — where teams can host games, but maybe most importantly — a light will be shined on the caregivers.
“Anyone who has survived cancer knows how important the people around you are,” said Susan Smalley, who is a 10-year survivor, “The medical staff certainly, but the people who leave six cookies at your door, weed your garden, or do those little things that make your life a lot easier to live and a lot easier to go through the treatment.”
Smalley said the role of caregiver is not an easy one to keep.
“It’s rough on caregivers, especially in spouse situations,” she said. “I think in a lot of ways my husband had it harder than I did. Men typically want to fix and do something (to help), but there’s really nothing you can do except walk along somebody.
“So that’s why we’re going to honor the caregivers and celebrate their role in healing — they’re a really important part of healing.”
Hosting an outdoor event in the summer time can be tricky, so that’s one of the reasons the city of Soldotna sponsored the time in the Sports Center.
“It’s kind of going to be a hedge against the weather,” Smalley said. “People can be inside or we’ll have a lap that will extend to the great Alaskan outdoors.”
At Relay For Life, teams of people camp out around a track and take turns walking or running around it during the 24-hour, overnight event. At least one member of the team is asked to be on the track at all times. Last year 35 teams raised $85,000, Event Chair Johna Beech told the audience. Beech said the goal passed down from the American Cancer Society for this year is $95,000. The money raised goes toward research, support services, health lobbying, and counseling.
This year’s Relay For Life will be June 1-2 at the Soldotna Sports Center.
For more information, visit relayforlifeofcentralpeninsula.org to learn how to start a team, join a team, register as a survivor, donate to the event or purchase a luminaria in memory or honor of a loved one.