ARLINGTON — This year’s Arlington Relay For Life had generated $195,890.29 from 99 teams made up of 815 individuals by the time it wrapped up on the morning on Sunday, June 23, at the John C. Larson Stadium, but Arlington Relay co-chair Kim Deisher-Allen hastened to remind attendees and the community at large that the Relay will continue to collect donated funds for this year through Aug. 31, since the Arlington Relay organizers’ goal is to raise a total of $1 million for the four years that Relay has been a part of Arlington.
Deisher-Allen kicked off the opening ceremonies of the fourth annual Arlington Relay on Saturday, June 22, by recalling her father’s fight with cancer, which began in 2009 and lasted much longer than his doctors had initially predicted.
“He was given three months to live,” said Deisher-Allen, who grew tearful as she recounted how successive rounds of chemo, radiation and surgery ultimately left him in a condition she compared to that of an Alzheimer’s patient, even as those measures allowed him to celebrate his 70th birthday with his family. “He lived for 26 months after his diagnosis, much more than the three he was given. Being a caregiver to him was such a blessing, even when it got so hard, that I’d do it all over again just to see my dad.”
Like Deisher-Allen, Erin Lewis was accustomed to balancing a career with being a mom when her life was impacted by cancer, but for Lewis, an occupational therapist, the struggle came from learning to let other people become her caregivers when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I left work to focus on me, which is something I’ve never done before,” Lewis said. “Everywhere I went, people hugged me and supported me. Even the ladies at Haggen’s became my friends. Never underestimate the power of the group. I’m here because I hate to think of someone else following in my footsteps without getting the support I received.”
In spite of the seriousness of their cause, the mood of the participants was upbeat and festive, as groups like “Team Star Wars” — almost all of whom were walking for grandparents who have fought cancer — donned the costumes of their favorite characters from those films.
Sue Weiss, captain of the “Friends For a Cure” team, took pride not only in her group of 13 “over-nighting” in the Arlington High School stadium for the event, but also raising well in excess of $7,000 in the process, thereby putting them in third place for this year’s most fundraising teams.
“We’ve been in the top three teams for all three years that we’ve done this, said Weiss, who noted that “Friends For a Cure” even made it to the No. 1 spot in a previous year. “We don’t sleep, but we have lots of fun and we’re very passionate. Everyone on this team comes together.”
When it came to fundraising, nobody was beating “Team Nana,” the top team, or D’Andrea Olsen, the team’s captain and No. 1 individual fundraiser for this year’s Arlington Relay. Of the roughly $14,000 raised by “Team Nana,” Olsen generated slightly more than $10,000 of it.
“Our first year, we only had one team, but this year, our ‘Team 1’ had 15 walkers and ‘Team 2’ had about seven or eight,” said Olsen, whose team has also been involved in the Arlington Relay for three years. “My mother passed away from cancer a year and a half ago, and my brother has been in remission for about 12 years. We have a big family, and this is our way of healing. It’s been therapeutic to know we’ve been able to help other families in our situation.”