ARLINGTON — Legion Park and the Arlington City Council Chambers were bustling with activity during the Arlington Relay For Life’s 2013 kickoff on Saturday, Jan. 4.
Arlington Relay For Life Publicity Co-Chairs Jennifer Egger and Miranda Shepherd explained that this year’s Relay is aggressively courting social media, with “ATownRelay” serving as both its Twitter hashtag and its Facebook address.
“Pictures send a powerful message, so we’ll be encouraging people to post those online,” Egger said. “Relay has developed an active youth following, so this is a great way to connect to those younger groups.”
Relay organizers started the day with 24 teams already signed up, and saw hundreds of individual volunteers sign up throughout the day.
“The biggest thing we’ve learned is to get the word out to our prospective volunteers early,” said Egger, who noted that this year’s total fundraising goal is $265,000. “It’s our fourth year of doing this in Arlington, and we’re close to hitting the million-dollar mark, so the earlier we can get started on getting a jump on that, the better.”
To that end, Egger and Shepherd reminded attendees that the “Coaches vs. Cancer” event kicks off at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 18.
“Our fundraising goal for that is about $5,000,” said Shepherd, who promised the basketball players will again be “pinking it up” to show their support for the cause.
Arlington Relay For Life Co-Chairs Kim Deisher-Allen and Jessica Angel added that this year’s Relay — whose Big Top-styled theme is “Dream Big, Hope Big, Relay Big” — also marks the 100th anniversary of the American Cancer Society.
“We want people to know what they’re Relaying for,” said Deisher-Allen, who cited the American Cancer Society’s 24-hour 800-number and cancer prevention programs as benefits that even experienced volunteers can occasionally overlook. “We’ve been Relaying for four years, and even we didn’t know about some of this stuff.”
While the “Roads to Recovery” transportation program allows cancer patients to catch a ride to important appointments without leaning on loved ones who are likely overtaxed to begin with from providing care, the “Look Good, Feel Better” program at Cascade Valley Hospital teaches cancer patients the tricks to makeup, skin care and hair (or wig) care while undergoing treatment.
“I cared for my dad for two and a half years without knowing that some of these resources were available to us,” Deisher-Allen said. “Plus, Relay has virtually no overhead, so 89 percent of every dollar raised goes directly to research and programs to help cancer patients and survivors.”
Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert shared how her perspective on cancer has changed since her sister was recently diagnosed with an ultra-rare form of cancer that she estimated only affects perhaps 400 people in the nation.
“After the holidays, I was driving in the car with my mom, and after about 20 minutes of silence, she asked, ‘What happens to people who don’t have families?’” Tolbert said. “We’re what happens. All of you who step up for the people who are too weak to fight on their own. We become their warriors.”
Tolbert told attendees of the Relay kickoff that she hopes to see them at the Relay proper, June 22-23 at Arlington High School, so they can walk not just for her sister, but for cancer patients “from a 2-year-old girl in the United States to an 80-year-old woman in Japan. It takes a village to fight back this invader in all our families’ lives.”
Team rallies are planned each month between 7-8 p.m. at the Stillaguamish Senior Center on Feb. 5, March 5, April 9, May 7, and June 4 and 18. To register or learn more, log onto http://relayforlife.org/arlingtonwa.