Tonight, 41 teams consisting of family members, co-workers and community members will join forces and kickoff the Kenai Peninsula seventh annual Relay for Life a 24-hour journey toward what many hope will bring a cure for cancer.
"Finding a cure is so important. On the peninsula alone, 90 percent of the population will be impacted by cancer, whether by a family member, co-worker, friend or contracting it," said Lisa Parker, co-chair for the event. "The relay is about funding the fight, but more important, it is about celebrating living through it, surviving it and supporting each other."
According to Parker, Relay for Life is a major fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society that began in 1985 with a sole participant. This year about 3 million participants will walk nationwide, 500 of those will be on the track at 6 p.m. at Skyview High School showing their support and walking for a variety of reasons.
This will be the fourth Relay for Life for Soldotna resident Kim Kimball, 40. She will not only be running her laps in memory of family members who have died or are currently fighting cancer she will run with a lump in her breast.
"It's benign. It was discovered this year with a mammogram, it was so tiny you couldn't feel it," Kimball said.
Kimball credits Relay for Life for showing her how important early detection is in surviving cancer and helping her overcome her fears.
"I was so frightened to get a mammogram, but I went because (cancer) runs in my family and it is better to know," she said.
For now, her doctors will track the lump, but she said she is optimistic about whatever may come because she has seen so many survive it through her volunteering at the relay.
Kimball said she and her three boys Chester, 12, Ryan, 9, and Quintin, 6 enjoy the atmosphere, the overnight camping and community spirit that prevails through the night.
"It's fun but meaningful. Steve Adams plays the bagpipes and the survivors take the first lap ... . There is just so much hope," she said.
Soldotna resident Margie McCord is Kimball's team leader and will be one of about 150 survivors walking the first lap tonight.
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, McCord was encouraged to participate in the relay by Kathy Lopeman, an oncology nurse at Central Peninsula General Hospital.
"That year, to fund-raise, we wrote to everyone I knew and asked for $1 for every year that they knew me," she said and laughed. "I raised $2,400."
The amount of money was an eye-opener when she realized how many people cared about her.
"The response was so uplifting, affirming," she said. "The spirit is everything. Those with support and prayers do the best in their fight with cancer."
She finds that her time spent at the Relay for Life is not only a good time to catch up with her friends and neighbors, but also a time for reflection.
"When you walk past the luminarias you can reflect, pray and honor those who are fighting cancer or who died," she said. "They are not forgotten."
Parker said the outpouring of community support is what makes those fighting cancer feel there is hope.
"Our community is wonderful. We have entertainers that will play through the night. It is the volunteers that make this happen," Parker said. "Last year we raised $63,000, a record amount for a community of our size. This year is our goal is $70,000."
Kimball's goals are a bit loftier.
"I hope for a cure," she said.
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