Archive for Thursday, June 18, 2009

Relay for Life travels around the track again

Cancer survivors take the first lap of the night for the 2009 Kaw Valley Relay for Life.

Cancer survivors take the first lap of the night for the 2009 Kaw Valley Relay for Life.

June 18, 2009

As she made her away around the track for the first time, cancer survivor Janis Grace, of Shawnee, became overcome with emotion.

“It’s awesome,” Grace, who has been a survivor for 14 months, said of her experience with the seventh annual Kaw Valley Relay for Life, which raises money for the American Cancer Society.

Grace was one of 125 cancer survivors who participated in not only the relay but the survivor rally preceding it, a dinner and raffle event in the Bonner Springs High School cafeteria. Co-chair of the survivor rally Ann Schierts, who is a survivor herself, said this was the largest number she had ever seen at the rally.

“It’s awesome,” she said, echoing Grace’s sentiments.

The Kaw Valley Relay for Life kicked off at about 7 p.m. with the survivors taking the first lap around the BSHS track. A record-making number of 43 teams followed in their footsteps throughout the night, with members from each team taking laps around the track during the 12-hour event.

Co-chair for the event Sheryl Chadwick said unlike last year, anyone who wanted to was allowed to stay throughout the night until the end of the rally.

“We were really excited to see so many people from the community come out and participate in the event,” Chadwick said. “We had 43 teams, and we’re estimating 800 people actually attended the event. And part of it, in addition to raising the money, is to raise awareness of the American Cancer Society and the programs and services that they offer, as well as to support our survivors and celebrate their survivorship.”

The event didn’t just include laps around a track. Music, provided by local disc jockey Tony Clayton, played all night long, and games such as volleyball and alligator wrestling were available throughout the night, as well. Several vendors were there selling food and souvenirs and the Kidz Corner, with its inflatable obstacle courses and prize giveaway games was one of the most popular spots.

At about 10 p.m., participants took the time to honor survivors and deceased with a luminaria ceremony. The lights were dimmed, allowing the 1,300 luminaria lining the track to glow in the dark. After some remarks, participants took a lap around the track in the dark while names of survivors and deceased were scrolled on a big screen television. Afterward there was a fireworks display.

Chadwick said the Kaw Valley Relay for Life had raised approximately $125,000 through such avenues as team fundraising before the event, a silent auction and sales from the luminaria and food and souvenir vendors. In addition, young men dressed in drag collected money in their purses until 9 p.m., to see who among them would be titled “Queen of the Relay.” Ten-year-old John Sostarich was the first-place winner, collecting $358.32.

Though less than the total amount raised last year, Chadwick was pleased.

“We’re really happy with it, based on our teams worked really hard and with the economy,” Chadwick said. “We’re thrilled to raise $125,000.”

Team members seemed just as thrilled, not only to help raise that money but also to support the fight against cancer and to collectively remember any loved ones who may have lost the battle.

“It’s been fun so far. It think it’s great,” 13-year-old TJ Phillips, whose grandfather had died of cancer, said at the relay. “I think he’d be proud of me.”

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