Relay For Life strikes emotional chord

Cancer survivors find support, fun while raising money
By: Ally Rondoni Journal Correspondent
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Everyone from supporters, to survivors, to bikers, to the statue of liberty, was present at Auburn’s emotional and fun Relay for Life. This year’s 12th annual Relay featured rotating themes that changed throughout the day Saturday, and 30 registered teams who happily participated in the festivities. Colorful costumes and wide grins adorned all ages as they walked the loop or sold wares that benefit the American Cancer Society. With $50,000 already raised, and with more money coming in today, participants had a lot to grin about. “It’s like paying it forward,” said Peggy Christensen, cancer survivor and event organizer. “If it wasn’t for the money raised for research, a lot of us wouldn’t be alive. It’s our turn to help.” Christensen has been involved in the Relay for five years. “We all know what they (survivors) have gone through, and what they’re going through. It’s a family,” Christensen said. Christensen hopes to raise awareness for the Auburn community by letting other survivors and supporters know, “there are people who are here who care, who are a family that can support you.” Besides being an event for survivors, Relay for Life also drew a large crowd of supporters including Abby Kendall, a senior at Placer High who was decked out for the “Western” theme portion of the walk. “Last year I volunteered at the kids area and I saw everyone walking and I knew I wanted to do this,” Kendall said. “Last year I didn’t know any thing about this and now I do. It’s just fun to be part of the effort.” After the “Western” brought out locals in their western best, came the patriotic themed laps where several Uncle Sams and Lady Liberties strolled in the name of cancer research. Despite the fun themes, the event most looked forward to is the annual Luminaria Ceremony that honors cancer victims who have passed or who are still fighting the disease. Survivors and supporters alike write the names of friends or family, who are fighting or who have passed, onto white bags. The bags are placed around the loop with a candle inside and are lit at 9 p.m. Saturday, creating a glowing memorial. Nina Vaughn, an organizer, said that it is easily the most emotional event of the day. “It’s a way of honoring those who have passed and supporting those who are fighting (cancer),” said Vaughn. “The survivors are usually just coming out of treatment, or still fighting the disease, so they can’t walk all day. They always come out for this.” Organizer Christensen agrees. “The luminaria is an experience. I still get goose bumps. It’s emotional and very very touching,” said Christensen. The Relay is walked overnight, and ended Sunday at 10 a.m. with a fight back closing ceremony.