Pacing himself, Tim Osborn strode the perimeter of the Moffat County High School track, the inside edge of which was surrounded by his departed loved ones.
Although not present physically, Osborne's relatives were memorialized by the luminarias he bought to commemorate their individual struggles with cancer. Spread out among the hundreds of other makeshift lanterns representing cancer victims and survivors, Osborn's luminarias gave him motivation as he walked continuous laps around the track.
The opening ceremonies of the second annual Craig Relay for Life began at 6 p.m. last night, as event committee co-chairperson Elisa Hayes greeted everyone in attendance to the overnight celebration of life, which doubles as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Tonya Griffith, Relay accounting chairperson, set the tone for the night ahead, announcing that the funds brought in were at $81,635.12, a total that was updated throughout the evening.
Following the Color Guard performance by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4265 and Toni Lombardi's rendition of the national anthem, the Survivor's Lap began. As the official guests of honor for the night, more than 30 cancer survivors - dressed in purple T-shirts - and their families completed the first lap along the track to kick off the following laps to be walked by the 39 teams in attendance.
Dinner for the survivors was provided by Cugino's Pizzeria & Italian Food and Village Inn.
One of these survivors was Vicky McQuay, who finished her final breast cancer treatments several months ago. After going through 33 radiation treatments and a tumor removal surgery, McQuay said she had a whole new appreciation for the Relay.
"I donated money last year, but my life has changed a lot since then," she said. "I think every oncologist and radiologist in Northwest Colorado has seen my breasts because I've had to go all over the place for treatments. I think it's great how many people came out for the Survivor's Lap because you don't realize just how many people here have had cancer, and what they've gone through."
McQuay expressed an interest in participating in another Relay next year.
"It's amazing how much money they've raised," she said. "Craig's support is great, and I hope they do it every year."
The night of laps around the track walked by the teams is meant to signify the cancer patient's journey. The darkness of the night represents the patient's dread as they consider living with the disease, while the morning after signifies a future of hope following a great deal of physical exertion.
With parents, grandparents and other relatives who have passed away from cancer, Osborn, a member of the Megawatts team, can appreciate the symbolism.
"I bought a whole bunch of luminarias for them," he said. "I was here last year, and hopefully, I'll be able to be here for the closing ceremonies since I won't have to work. I think this is a really good event because it shows how much everybody in the community cares about each other."
The activity continued on and off the track as team-sponsored events raised more money for the cause. The silent auction received a $5,000 bid on a painting donated by local artist Roberta Harper.
Additionally, an inflatable slide/bounce house, sponsored by teams Ridgeview IOU and Sammy's Cancer Hammers, entertained the children in attendance from 7 to 10 p.m.
"We've got ages from one month to 86, I believe," event co-chair Yvonne McAnally said. The turnout is overwhelming, and I just want to thank all the volunteers who have helped. Everything has been phenomenal."
The lighting of the luminarias at 9 p.m. prepared everyone for the night in store, providing beacons with the words "hope" and "cure" spelled out on the bleachers with the lighted sacks.
The final lap will take place at 8:30 a.m. today, followed by the closing ceremonies.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 875-1796 or firstname.lastname@example.org