Arlington’s Relay for Life sets record

ARLINGTON — Arlington’s first-ever Relay For Life to benefit the American Cancer Society was the most successful first-year Relay in ACS history.

The June 4-5 event at the Arlington High School stadium raised more than $228,000 and drew 119 teams of 1429 participants, as well as 32 corporate sponsors, breaking the national record set for a first-year Relay that was previously set by New York City. Arlington’s 60-member Relay For Life Committee is continuing to receive donations through August, and will have representatives on site at the Arlington Fourth of July Parade and Street Fair on Olympic Avenue July 9-10.

Sherri Jira captained six Relay teams, one of which was honored as one of the top five fundraising teams of the Relay, for generating more than $7,500 in funds.

“We had 15 people on each team,” said Jira, whose son plays basketball at Arlington High School. “All the kids wanted to be on board. We started with two teams and added on from there. We could have added even more, but I finally told them that they needed to start their own teams,” she laughed.

Jira was diagnosed in the spring of last year and has since completed all her treatment. When Caryn Brown, the wife of boys’ basketball coach Nick Brown, was diagnosed in December of last year, Jira joked that she “totally stalked” Brown by spending time with her to lift her spirits. Brown is still undergoing radiation treatment.

Randy Sedy was diagnosed last August and received a clean bill of heath a couple of months ago, just in time to chair a Relay team. Like fellow survivor Kelly Roundy, who was diagnosed in 2004 and walked in the Relay with her daughter Marie, he was impressed by the event’s turnout. Bryan Meno carried his son Drew on his shoulders, as they walked for “papa” Bill Reed, while high school cross-country runners Nick Goolsbee and Aaron Newsom estimated that they spent 16 of their 18 hours in attendance running the course, with Goolsbee completing 52 laps and Newsom completing 80 laps.

“It’s amazing to see the community come together like this,” Bryan Meno said.

The Larsen family praised the Relay participants on behalf of two of their absent members — U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who was unable to attend due to legislative obligations, and Rick’s father, Dick Larsen, who lost his battle with cancer on Oct. 4, 2008. Ryan Larsen read a letter from his brother Rick, congratulating the Arlington Relay on its record-setting status and deeming their performance a “testament to your dedication to fight cancer.”

“It’s the best thing that’s ever happened in Arlington,” Jira said. “It just took my breath away. I’ve told the kids, ‘You guys are the reason I can get up in the morning and get through the day.’ Their support makes me strong.”

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