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Relay for Life: A time to remember, support, fundraise

Posted: Sunday, June 06, 2010

Despite the rainy and overcast weather, spirits were not dampened during Friday and Saturday's Relay for Life of the Central Peninsula event at the Skyview High School track.

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Photos By M. Scott Moon
Photos By M. Scott Moon
Wil Milam and his wife Deb listen late Saturday evening as a long list of cancer victims' names is read during the Relay For Life at Skyview High School. The annual event raises funds and awareness for the American Cancer Society.

"We actually had a very good turnout for opening ceremonies even though it was pouring down rain," said Teresa Gamble, an event organizer.

More than 230 people showed up to walk, and even hula-hoop, to support the national event and fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, in its 10th year in Kenai over the weekend.

"I relay for my Dad who beat lymphoma a couple years ago," said Tamara Quincy, of Soldotna, who walked with the Soldotna Church of God team.

On Saturday morning, acoustic guitar music filled the air as determined participants cruised around the track, children played in a dino-jump and others munched on barbecue. The attitude was seemingly upbeat for the solemn subject matter. The parking lot was full of vehicles and motor homes and tents were set up on the soccer field so participant could camp during the 24-hour event. Luminaria bags in honor of those who lost, and survived, fights against cancer lined the inside of the track.

Mike Webber, of Seldovia, lit a luminaria candle for his wife, Mary, who died of melanoma.

"I lost my best friend and wife of almost 50 years to this beast called cancer one and half years ago," he said, fingering his long necklace of paper clips representing each lap he has done. "It's a frightening disease. I was the guy who flew 300 combat missions in Vietnam, so our kids we're prepared for Dad not to come home, but not prepared for mom not to come home."

He travels to the event every year to walk for healing and remembrance.

"I'm walking for everybody, but Mary is with me the whole time," he said. "I really do feel her presence."

Dennis Ghormley, chairman of the event, said that it is important to remember cancer survivors along with the victims.

"It's an uplifting time and a good time for camaraderie and there's other people just like us," he said. Ghormley has been cancer-free for a year and a half.

For Maria Chythlook, who walked with the Soldotna Church of God team, said that Relay for Life is an important event for her children to participate in.

"It's a way for them to get back at the enemy," she said. "We know a lot of people who have cancer. Some have survived, some are still fighting and some have not survived."

So far this year the local Relay for Life has raised more than $66,000 for the American Cancer Society, but the fundraising efforts continue throughout the year, Gamble said.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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