SMOKEY POINT — Even before its official kickoff on Tuesday, Jan. 7, the Arlington Relay For Life had already made a significant head-start on its goals for this year, whose theme is “Give Cancer the Boot!”
The Stillaguamish Senior Center hosted the evening’s activities, information booths and guest speakers, starting with Arlington Relay co-chairs Kim Deisher-Allen and Jessica Angel, as they broke the word “Boot” down into an acronym for their anticipated accomplishments to come.
“‘B’ stands for ‘Bold Goals,’” Angel said. “We’re looking to get 135 survivors, 100 teams and 900 participants out to the Arlington High School stadium on June 21, to raise $205,000.”
“We already have 34 teams who have raised $18,000 so far,” Deisher-Allen said that night, before she elaborated that “O” stands for “Opportunities.” Among the opportunities she cited were the American Cancer Society’s resources for cancer patients and their caregivers, ranging from its 24-hour 800-number and 31 free Hope Lodge locations across the United States, to its Road to Recovery volunteer-provided rides and its Look Good Feel Better beauty assistance program.
“The other ‘O’ stands for ‘On the Track,’ which is where we expect to see all of you starting at 1 p.m. on June 21,” Angel said. “We all Relay because all of our lives have been touched by cancer.”
“And the ‘T’ stands for ‘Teams,’ because we literally couldn’t Relay without our teams,” Deisher-Allen said. “Together, we’re all going to give cancer the boot.”
Deisher-Allen and Angel encouraged the crowds to mark their calendars for the Relay activities ahead, prior to this summer, including the March 22 Paint the Town Purple event in downtown Arlington, the April 19 Purple Block Party in the parking lot of Haggen’s Food and Pharmacy, and the May 31 Bark For Life on the Haller Middle School track.
Madison Taylor, who’s chairing this year’s Paint the Town Purple, touted her sister Bailey as her inspiration.
“She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and even though she’s more into fashion and I’m more outdoorsy, she still took the time to play with me, even after her radiation treatments,” Madison Taylor said. “We would pretend to be spies, and spy on our mom, and even though Bailey wasn’t supposed to be in tight spaces, our mom would always find us giggling in the closet.”
“Everyone has their own story, and their own reason for being here,” Angel said.
Dawn Clemenshaw and Sheryl Karpinski, co-chairs of the Arlington Relay’s Team Development, shared their story by hefting up a hiking boot, in honor of their recently diagnosed father, since their family always goes camping together around Memorial Day. The sisters then congratulated the members of the “Grand Club,” each of whom had already donated more than $1,000, including Caryn Brown, Carolyn and Shawna Erickson, Gloria Mahoney and D’Andrea Olson.
J.D. Drollinger, of the American Cancer Society’s National Relay Advisory Team, has been a frequent speaker at Arlington Relay events throughout the years, and he returned to this year’s kickoff not only to recall his father’s death from colon cancer in 1977, but also to report that his father-in-law has just recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer and will begin treatments shortly.
Drollinger played Michael Buble’s “Everything” over the Stillaguamish Senior Center’s speakers as he pointed out the parallels between the song’s lyrics and the relationships between cancer patients and their caregivers.
“When you’re a caregiver, your survivor is your everything, and whatever comes your way, you’ll see it through,” Drollinger said, paraphrasing Buble’s words. “Why do we Relay? We don’t do it for numbers, or T-shirts. We do it for the people who are our everything, because we know what it feels like to be holding their hands in the doctor’s office, thinking, ‘Boy, I sure hope it’s good news.’ I’m doing everything I can so that my everything can be around for a lot longer. The money we raise through Relay will buy my father-in-law a lot more days.”
After Randy Williams shared how his father’s passing last fall was made easier by hospice, Randy’s wife and Arlington Relay Entertainment co-chair Michelle Williams wrapped up the evening’s activities by organizing a line-dance for all the evening’s attendees to symbolically give cancer the boot with some high-kicking steps.