Relay For Life participants dig in to help find a cure

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2008

Some folks hold bake sales to raise funds as part of Relay For Life, others collect pledges and sponsors, but Sterling resident Deb Clonan decided to go a different route. Instead of baking brownies or going door to door, Clonan invited Megan Riddle and her talent with the henna applicator to her house to put her art to good use.

"I contacted Megan via e-mail and found out Megan's mom is a breast cancer survivor," Clonan said. "The donations evolved from there."

Instead of charging for her product, Riddle decided to donate the money she would normally make to the American Cancer Society as part of Relay For Life. Relay For Life begins at 6 p.m. at the Skyview High School track today. It will begin with the survivor's lap at 6:30 p.m., culminate with the luminaria service at 11 p.m. and end with the last lap at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Clonan, who's currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for metastatic breast cancer, said her family has been involved with Relay For Life since it started 10 years ago. Clonan's dad, Lee Bowman, was diagnosed with melanoma in 1980 and survived, and after her own diagnosis in 2005, she said she became very involved.

"A cancer diagnosis is a line in the sand," she said. "At stage four, you can deal with life on the other side of the line. This is the hand I got dealt, you just have to deal with it."

When the relay starts, someone begins walking laps the entire time, Clonan said. This year the theme for Relay For Life is Mardi Gras, she said, participants are asked to make floats. At 6:45 a.m. on Saturday folks will participate in a rooster crowing contest and a bed head contest. At 8 a.m. the Miss Duct Tape relay will start.

"They dress a guy up in a duct tape ball gown," Clonan said, adding that there's also track music and karaoke.

At the luminary service, participants light candles in remembrance of a loved one they lost to cancer. The candles illuminate paper bags and line the track for the rest of the night.

"It's the only solemn part of the relay," Clonan said. "It's a sob fest. (They) leave the luminaries lit all night as a symbol of hope."

Clonan's biggest goal for Relay For Life is to be able to come up with enough money so researchers can find a cure for cancer. Even though she has participated in Relay For Life every year since its inception on the Kenai Peninsula, she says she meets new people all the time. The Kenai Peninsula Relay For Life has been the top fundraiser in the state for cancer research for the last five to six years, Clonan said, and with more teams, participation and money, it's just gotten bigger and bigger over the years.

Julie Bowman, Clonan's mother, said it's her hope that Relay For Life will help researchers finally discover a cure for cancer.

"I want people to be aware of what this is about," she said. "This is about looking for the last dollar that says here's the cure. I want researchers to be able to do the work to bring this to an end."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at

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