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Arlington Relay for Life kicks off

SMOKEY POINT — The Arlington Relay for Life’s fundraising season kicked off with music and congratulations Jan. 22, as American Cancer Society representatives praised Arlington for its record-breaking first-year Relay earnings and predicted even brighter prospects for this year.

Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson spoke to the audience at the Stillaguamish Senior Center, pointing to the Relay volunteers in attendance as an example of her oft-cited “heart of Arlington.”

Larson was impressed by the number of Relay team tents that filled the Arlington High School stadium last year, and deemed those Relay team members “heroes to me.” Her connection to cancer became more personal four months ago when a prescription refill in the wake of a hip replacement prompted an overdue mammogram.

“For me, ‘M’ stood for ‘May,’ when I usually got my mammogram, and I knew I hadn’t had one that May,” Larson said. “I was shocked when I was called back and told that they needed to look at me again. They told me I had cancer, and I told them I didn’t think so because I think I know everything,” she added, drawing laughter from the crowd.

In spite of a family history that’s devoid of breast cancer, the diagnosis was confirmed. Larson warned the women in attendance that post-menopausal women face an even higher risk of breast cancer, even as she made light of her own struggles.

“Now, ‘M’ no longer stands for ‘May,’ or ‘Margaret,’ even ‘Mary,’ my daughter who’s been so helpful. It stands for ‘mammogram,’ because I’m not going to forget again,” Larson laughed.

Jan Schuette, the team development chair for the Arlington Relay, reported that the Relay had signed up 47 teams with more than 300 participants when she’d left the house that morning. Survivorship Chair Terri Bookey and Youth Involvement Chair Cindy Huleatt then took to the stage to lead the crowd in a cheer, complete with pom-poms.

“I want to see at least 200 survivors out on that track this year,” Bookey said.

“We had about 400 youths out there last year,” Huleatt said. “They helped keep us going at 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the morning.”

Jennifer Haase Morris, vice president of learning and development for the American Cancer Society’s Great West Division, presented a number of awards to Arlington Relay volunteers, starting with the Pacesetter Award. Out of 57 Relays in western Washington, only 12 received the award for 2010, and Arlington Relay Event Chair Kerry Munnich accepted the award on behalf of the Arlington Relay as a whole.

“Not only did you set the record for a first-year Relay, but you also registered more teams online than any of the veteran Relays around you,” Haase Morris said. “By April, you had already surpassed your monetary goals. I look forward to seeing that fundraising thermometer bust again.”

Schuette was unanimously selected to receive the ACS Great West Division Choice Award for the “fabulous job” she did in helping to promote the Arlington Relay in the community, while local elementary school student Payton Brown received the ACS Nationwide “Rookie of the Year” Award for leading her peers as the “Corndog Kids” in raising roughly $1,500 at last year’s Relay, with Brown herself generating at least $700 of those earnings.

“When her mom was diagnosed with cancer, Payton would not accept defeat,” Haase Morris said. “Her mom won her fight, and Payton herself handled it like a quiet champion.”

Payton’s mother, Caryn Brown, followed by urging Arlington community members to take part in an ACS cancer prevention study that’s set to commence at this year’s Relay, June 4, from 2:30-6:30 p.m. This long-term research study will focus on lifestyle, environmental or genetic factors that could cause or prevent cancer, and the ACS is recruiting adults from across America to participate.

“Previous cancer prevention studies found the links between cigarette smoking and cancer, as well as obesity as a risk factor for cancer,” Brown said. “It’s an honor that the American Cancer Society chose Arlington as one of their study sites.”

Eligibility to participate in the study is limited to those between the ages of 30-65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer, except for basal or squamous cell skin cancer.

The Arlington Relay’s kickoff concluded with Mia Hansen crooning inspirational songs such as “The Climb,” which she wrote in tribute to her mother’s battle with cancer. Kristine Carter and Sue Weiss, co-chairs of registration and accounting for the Arlington Relay, checked their website near the end of the event to learn that the Arlington Relay has raised more than $12,000 so far.

For more information on the Arlington Relay for Life, log onto www.relayforlife.org/arlingtonwa.

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