Community event to celebrate survival, life.
By Timithie NORMAN
The 12th annual Foothills Relay for Life kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Clark Magnet High School, marking the beginning of a 24-hour event to raise awareness of and funds for cancer research and education through the American Cancer Society.
The Foothills Relay is just one of thousands that take place across the country each year, bringing communities together to support cancer survivors, memorialize those who have died, and contribute to the ongoing search for a cure.
“There are not too many people who have not been touched by cancer,” said Paula Warner, this year’s event chair. “Whether it’s with a close relative, close friend or coworker, it’s close to people’s hearts.”
Warner is just one of many participants who have personal stories to tell about the effect of cancer of her life and family. She has already lost two people to the disease this year, and according to the American Cancer Society’s website, half of all men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetimes.
With those unfortunate odds, it’s no wonder the Relay continues to attract more and more participants each year. Warner expects more than 500 people to attend, with 28 teams already registered.
At the event, team members walk continuously around a track for 24 hours while team tents, activities, games, music and more educate and entertain participants and spectators alike. The first lap at 9:15 a.m. is the “Survivor’s Lap” when any and all cancer survivors are invited walk the track and celebrate in solidarity. A variety of speakers, including cancer survivors, will tell their stories throughout the day, while the event’s signature luminaria ceremony takes place at 9 p.m. and according to Warner, is not to be missed.
Relay participants, survivors and caregivers remember loved ones lost to cancer and honor those battling the disease through candles lit and placed in luminaria bags, illuminating the track with memories and hope for a cure.
“It took me a couple years to do it since I had recently lost someone very dear and I was scared to go,” Warner said. “But I wished I had gone sooner to listen to other peoples’ experiences and walk the track. The support, the love is amazing.”
Warner credits the unique community atmosphere of the foothills for helping make the Relay a success year after year.
“We have such an outpouring of support,” she explained. “Look at Drew’s Voice and how big that is, look at the farmer’s market. When we have something special, they come because they care.”
While this year’s event, like those in the past, will feature live music, bingo, games for kids and families, movies and more, this year’s Relay will also celebrate mothers in honor of Mother’s Day on May 13. At the very end of the event, mothers will be asked up on stage to blow out the special event candle signaling the close of the Relay. Teams were asked to specially recognize the role of mothers in participants’ lives, and several speakers will pay tribute to their own mothers.
“My mom had lymphoma and is a cancer survivor, and my mother-in-law is a two-time breast cancer survivor,” explained Relay participant and Crescenta Valley Town Councilmember Cheryl Davis, who will be walking for the fourth year. “I think it is important that we remember and celebrate the birthdays.”
Davis’ daughter will join her on the track for the third year, making the event extra special for the mother-daughter pair. Davis encourages people to come check out the Relay, even if just for an hour.
“It’s a very powerful event, but also a very fun event,” she said. “It’s a great community experience.”
Those interested in participating at Saturday’s Foothills Relay for Life can register online at foothillsrelayforlife.com or in person at the event. Luminarias can be purchased for a suggested donation of $10 each. All funds raised go to support the education, advocacy and research efforts of the American Cancer Society.