A day of relay | CraigDailyPress.com

A day of relay

American Cancer Society Relay for Life event kicks off at high school

Dan Olsen

It is 8 a.m. Friday.

— And with Craig getting ready to host its first American Cancer Society Relay For Life, Mary McIntosh and Randy Runyan are already at work preparing the Moffat County High School track for the day’s event to honor cancer survivors and raise money for fighting cancer.

The two Craig Parks and Recreation employees volunteered when a call went out for people to help at the Friday night relay.

McIntosh is very familiar with Relay For Life. She participated in an Arizona relay after ovarian cancer took her aunt.

“It was really raining and stormy,” she said about the earlier event. “It was monsoon season in Arizona, but the relay went on.”

Runyan is attending his first Relay for Life event, but he has participated in Race For The Cure, a breast cancer awareness event, in Denver.

“Last fall, my roommate in college was diagnosed with lymphoma,” he said. “When I heard about this event, I volunteered.”

The pair planned to be at the high school track all day, placing sponsor signs and helping wherever needed.

As with many of the other volunteers working on Friday, they said they were happy to contribute.

It’s 6 p.m.

The event has officially begun.

Opening speakers thank those who have come, and those who have put on the event.

As of last count, the relay has raised more than $51,000. Their orginal goal when setting up the relay was $20,000.

One of the opening speakers is a special guest. He’s one who will use the money for cancer research.

He’s Dr. Paul MacLean, a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver involved in cancer research.

And he had a message to tell.

“There are three times more survivors today than there was 30 years ago,” he said.

His mother is a cancer survivor who, he said, got through the ordeal with support from family and friends.

“It was knowing she had that support, and cutting edge research behind her treatment. Hope is what turned it around for her. Here’s to hope in finding a cure for cancer.”

It’s about 6:30 p.m.

It’s time to walk.

And when the walking started, the first lap around the track belonged to those people who already had faced cancer, or currently were battling the disease, otherwise known as the survivors’ lap.

Cancer survivors were easy to spot by their purple T-shirts, and easy to converse with because they wanted to share their experience and knowledge.

Tammy Mower of Craig is a lymphoma cancer survivor. She still goes regularly for check-ups. She was impressed with the turnout for the relay.

“I think it’s just amazing,” she said. “I never realized how many people were affected. You hear numbers, but when you see all these people, there’s no words for it.”

The hundreds of people attending the opening ceremony had equally as many reasons for being there.

E.J. Bunk is a Vietnam Veteran who had encounters with “agent orange,” the defoliant now known to be a carcinogen.

He owes his survival of cancer to a couple of buddies who kept insisting he get a prostate exam.

“I did not have one symptom,” he said. “I can recommend to any male over 40 to get checked out, especially veterans.”

Bunk has been given a clean bill of health by his doctors, and Friday evening, he took part in the survivors’ lap around the high school track.

“This is quite a deal. I’m impressed,” he said. “I came because my wife is walking with the hospital group, and I just found out about the survivors’ lap.”

As the relay got underway, Tammy Mower mingled with friends. She has hope. Cancer is not something she is ready to give into.

“There’s a bright future there,” she said. “I still have kids to raise.”

It’s after 9 p.m.

Girls dressed as angels join the walkers on the track, with signs that read “Quiet please.”

Ken Prescott, who is master of ceremonies, asks everyone to come off the track, and meet in the middle of the field for what he described as the heart of the event, the luminaria ceremony. The walkers gather to watch the list of people who have luminairias in honor of or in memory of.

There are more than 1,000 luminairas lining the track. They grow brighter as the night grows darker.

In the stands, more than 200 luminarias spell the word “hope.”

Later, they are arranged to spell “cure.”

It’s all part of the production.

It’s been a long day for event organizers, some getting up at 3 a.m. And while the preparation for the day started in the morning, the preparation for the event started much earlier, in October 2006.

As Relay for Life chair Elisa Hayes watches the crowd, around 10:30 p.m., one statement came to mind.

“I have never been more proud to say that I live in Craig,” she said, as the walkers continue to make their way around the track, which they will do until noon today, to symbolize the hope of finding a cure.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext.207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com

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