The 6th Annual Relay for Life was held under cloudy, balmy, mosquito swarming skies at Skyview High School.
The event which began as a fund raising opportunity for the American Cancer Society (ACS) to find a cure for cancer, has become far more as the community gathers to learn as they walk through the night about the latest treatments, diagnostic tests, prevention, celebrate survivorship, and remember with honor those who have fallen victims to cancer. According to Larry Andrus, ACS regional vice president, who was present at this year's local Relay for Life, more than 4,200 communities across America participated in the annual event.
Candles are lit in the Relay for Life luminary ceremony at Skyview High school.
More than 600 names were read during the luminary event which honors survivors and those lost to cancer, "Every year there are more names, as more cancer is detected we add more survivors to our community and it was very moving for me to see all the survivors here tonight," said Kathy Lopeman, founding organizer of the local Relay for Life. There were 41 teams walking round the clock in this year's Relay with more participants than ever before. Monies are still being collected, but with more than 95% of the funds being accounted for the totals for 2004 should reach or exceed $68,000, according to Kathy Gensel, of Wells Fargo bank who is the keeper of records for the Relay for Life. That's more than a $5,000 increase over last year's event, short of the record year of more than $75,000 raised in 2002, by 50 teams.
The teams raise their funds in a myriad of ways that include local bake sales, coin drops, auctions, garage sales, car washes, raffles, and collection plates at churches. "I can't believe how this event has grown, in the beginning I thought maybe a dozen or so families would turn out for a campout, and our optimistic goal was to raise $25,000 to help kill cancer. We raised $41,000 the first year and it has just continued to grow," added Lopeman.
Led by bagpiper Steve Adams of Soldotna, Relay for Life walkers take a lap in remembrance of survivors and victims of cancer.
The theme of this year's Relay was "Hope," and it was spelled out in candle lit paper bags on the bleachers at Skyview. On the football field the luminary bags spelled out "Hope for a cure." Cancer survivor Sue Stein said, "I think the theme is awesome because without hope you don't stand a chance. Hope and a good support system are essential."
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