By Erna TAYLOR-STARK
Early on Saturday morning at the corner of Verdugo and Honolulu, about two dozen adults, teens and a few kids, including Ryan Waldheim son of longtime Relay for Life coordinator Chris, painted graffiti on the windows of several stores…right in broad daylight. Sharon Martin, former town counsel member and cancer survivor who is also co-chair of the Relay for Life, explained, “We are not painting graffiti; it is ‘gra-FEET-i.’”
The purple feet being painted upon several store windows in Montrose is a precursor to the 10th Annual American Cancer Society Foothills Relay for Life to be held May 15-16 at Clark Magnet High School. The purple footprints are an exclusive for the Foothills Relay for Life and as Chris Waldheim, team retention chair for the last 10 years, said, “It takes about two hours to paint all the footprints. People are really excited to come and do this. The paint is water-based and easily cleaned, although several merchants leave the footprints up for a long time. The actual Relay itself raises over $100,000 for cancer programs locally such as Road to Recovery, rides to therapy treatments; Look Good, Feel Better, human hair wigs; PSA announcements.” Waldheim added that the drug tamoxifen for the treatment of breast cancer was developed by a doctor who had a grant from the funds raised by the Relay.
According to Regan Boone, 2010 co-chair along with her husband Boone, this is the fourth year of Paint the Town Purple in Montrose. The event was started by Wade Battely, who was battling cancer, first by painting three stores the first year with no one else helping. The following year 26 stores were painted and Wade chaired the event from her hospital bed. In a poignant note, she died the day of the footprint painting that year.
Relay committee member Beth Hakes said that Girl Scout troop 4341 solicited the Montrose merchants to agree to have their windows painted with the footprints. The project was part of the Girl Scout’s Silver Award. If the merchant doesn’t want the window painted, they can elect to have balloons taped to their front door.
When asked why he participated, Dan Hatcher, who is chairman in 2011 said, “It helps me give something back to my community and it helps me grow as a person. Having kids in the volunteer group is also good, because it helps them see grown-ups contributing to the community in which they live and provides good role-models.” Cindy Hatcher, Dan’s wife and a math teacher at Hillside School and Learning Center, recruited teens Ian Bent and Jared Taylor who were painting with gusto.
A solemn walk down Honolulu Avenue on Saturday night brought more attention to the upcoming Relay For Life. A mini-luminaria ceremony was held, bringing attention to the May event and also reminding those who are and have battled cancer that they are not alone.
Local weatherman Dallas Raines joined the evening’s walk. He has been a strong supporter of Relay for Life in the Foothills for many years.
“I am a cancer survivor,” Raines said.
Five years ago Raines was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He understands the fear and the isolation that occurs when a person is told they have cancer. Relay For Life not only helps in raising funds for medical research but lets those who have been diagnosed with cancer know they are not alone, he said.
“It is a good feeling to help others, to put a smile on their face,” Raines said.
American Cancer Society sponsors Relay for Life. Teams are formed and donations are accepted up to the event, May 15-16 at Clark Magnet High School. During that weekend at least one member of each team walks the school’s track. Participants walk for many reasons; some just to bring awareness to the need for cancer research and others in memory of those who have passed away due to the disease. Yet others are cancer survivors.
“It is good therapy to walk, to know that someone else is going through the same thing,” Raines said.
The Boones have been involved in the foothills relay for seven years. They have a personal reason that keeps them walking: their son. He was diagnosed with cancer years ago and eventually lost his leg to the disease.
“But he not only runs marathons, he holds records in the [event],” Chuck said.
“His marathon time is [three hours 24 minutes],” Regan added.
When their son CJ was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2002, they searched and found support through the American Cancer Society and other cancer support organizations.
“When we found Relay for Life, our son loved the event. He made us promise whether he survived cancer or not to keep supporting the event,” Reagan said.
CJ is a survivor and was not at the luminaria because he was rock climbing, another hobby he has taken up, his mother said.
“He is my role model,” his parents said.
And that is what Relay for Life is about. It honors those who have fought cancer, gives hope to those who are fighting and support for continued research.
“There has been a lot of progress made in research but there is more needed,” Raines said.
He added that the awareness brought by this event was important.
“When I was diagnosed I was very healthy. I was shocked when I was told [of the cancer],” he said. “I think you need your yearly check-ups. I am glad I did.”
To donate or to find more information on Foothills Relay for Life, visit the website at http://foothillsrelayforlife.com or call (818) 247-8778 ext. 223.