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Relay team makes Mission of cancer awareness Possible

Cancer-surviving member says experience has special meaning
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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When it comes to the Relay For Life of Auburn, Mission Possible’s belief is “the more the merrier.” The team, which includes about 24 members, was the most successful in terms of fundraising in 2009 and 2010, bringing in $14,000 last year for American Cancer Society research and services in the local community. Team members range in age from 13 to 75 years old. The team represents the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop on Grass Valley Highway and many of its members are volunteers there, according to Joan Maxwell, team co-captain. Maxwell said the team won the first place golden shoe in 2009, when it raised $7,500, and 2010. Mission Possible is hoping to raise $15,000 to $20,000 this year and win the shoe again, but that is not the reason why the team loves being involved in the relay. “We are not doing it just to keep the shoe,” Maxwell said. “We are doing it for the cause.” Ronilyn Houston, co-captain of Mission Possible, said she continues to participate because the experience means so much to her. “I have been involved in it since day one,” Houston said. “Not only is it a lot fun — I have met so many phenomenal people. It’s a really rewarding experience. When it’s done I don’t think there is a dry eye there.” Janet Oates, current manager of the Discovery Shop and Mission Possible team member, is a 15-year breast cancer survivor and said her whole family walks in the relay. Oates said Mission Possible and the shop try to get out into the community and be involved in local events as much as possible to get the word out about what the American Cancer Society provides in the local community. Oates said when participants see the Luminaria ceremony for the first time they will want to come back again because it is an emotional experience. “Most (battling cancer) don’t cry for themselves,” Oates said. “You cry for others. That is just a big piece that catches so many in their mind.” Oates said participating on the team has special meaning for her because of her victory over cancer. “Definitely, because you kind of think, ‘Wow, I made it through it,’” she said. Oates said she thinks the relay can act as an educational tool about cancer and the resources that are available in the community. “I didn’t know anything about cancer until I was almost 38,” she said. “I wasn’t affected (until then). I think that’s what happens with a lot of survivors too, you do go, ‘OK, I know a lot more people, and they are going to suffer.” Katrina Sallagoity, 2011 chairwoman of Relay For Life of Auburn, said she appreciates the year-round work Mission Possible does. “If we could cookie cutter them for all the teams, that would be awesome,” Sallagoity said. “At the beginning of this relay year when we first started getting our committee together and planning our kickoff, they had already raised $5,000. So, they start early in their fundraising. I think that their journey with the ‘fight back’ part of the relay is phenomenal, and I as the event chair appreciate what they do for the Auburn Relay For Life as far as getting out the service programs the American Cancer Society provides to the Auburn community.” Houston said because many of the team members are volunteer with each other at the Discovery Shop, the Mission Possible team is a close knit one. Oates said the team happily takes new members and has a Mission Possible A and Mission Possible B to be able to include as many as possible. While most people these days know someone who has experienced cancer, the American Cancer Society has helped to bring down the rates of those who die from it, Oates said. “It’s just like, ‘When is it going to end?’” she said. “It’s a long haul, but I think the Relay For Life brings it all together. You are there to celebrate it, remember it and fight back.” According to Sallagoity, 245 participants had registered for the relay as of Monday, forming a total of 30 teams, but event coordinators are hoping for more. Sallagoity said anyone who wants to sign up for a team, donate or get more information about the event can visit relayforlife.org/auburnca, call her at (916) 821-2938 or e-mail relayforlifeauburn@hotmail.com. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ---------------------------------------------------- This is the final story of a four-part series on Auburn’s Relay For Life annual event. Read and comment on the entire series by visiting www.AuburnJournal.com. Sunday: How Relay for Life inspires one who has undergone cancer treatment Monday: A cancer survivor shares what relay means to her Tuesday: A look back at the first Relay and how it’s helped Auburn residents over time Today: Learn about the most successful Auburn area team and how you can help ----------------------------------------------------- Auburn Relay For Life event schedule When: Aug. 20-21 Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn Opening ceremony 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 20 Survivors lap 10:30 a.m. Aug. 20 Luminaria ceremony 9 p.m. Aug. 20 Fight Back/Closing ceremony 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 21