Relay For Life takes on cancer

Classmates Rylie Ploeger, left, Phoebe Kleyn and Caitlin Nowak show off the signatures they collected from fellow relay participants. -
Classmates Rylie Ploeger, left, Phoebe Kleyn and Caitlin Nowak show off the signatures they collected from fellow relay participants.
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MARYSVILLE Though the rain had temporarily let up, a cool wind crossed Marysville-Pilchuck stadium. Still, it wasnt enough to keep a couple hundred Relay For Life participants in their tents and RVs.
Nine brave men from across northern Snohomish County had donned dresses, earrings, wigs, and in some cases, high heels to compete for the title and crown of Mr. Relay.
Contestants strutted their stuff and answered questions out of The Dating Game for a three-member judging panel while their friends, family and relay teammates flooded the stadium seating craned their necks for a view.
The beauty competition was an evident highlight of the 22-hour relay event for many participants who defied the wet weekend forecast for June 9-10 to walk in the American Cancer Societys Relay For Life.
The relay drew groups of all ages.
One of the youngest groups was a team of 16 students from North Lake Middle School, who joined the relay as part of a student club, Teens Against Tobacco Use, or T.A.T.U.
Rylie Ploeger, 11, said the group is popular among her fellow students, but their turnout for the weekend event was relatively small, a fact she attributed to the weather.
She and several of her relay teammates were unfazed though, collecting autographs on their official relay t-shirts with the markers they clutched in hand.
Other teams were built around survivors like Wilma Daniels.
Im a three-time cancer survivor, Daniels said, introducing herself. Her light pink shirt reads, Survivor, 1974, 1998, 2006.
Ive had breast cancer twice and cancer of the cervix once, she said, adding frankly, I had both breasts removed last September.
Daniels upbeat personality becomes even more remarkable when she adds that she was a prison librarian for 22 years.
Though relay participants park tents, RVs and sleeping bags on the football field or adjoining parking lots, a rule of participation is that each team has one person walking the track at all times.
To keep things interesting, organizers have competitions like Mr. Relay and themed laps like the Sports Lap or the Swimsuit Lap in which a teams designated walker dons attire appropriate for the theme.
In contrast to the lighthearted pageant a couple hours earlier, at 10 p.m., candles circled the track in the contemplative Luminaria ceremony. A staple of the Relay For Life event, each Luminaria is a glowing bag filled with sand and a candle, and personalized to honor or memorialize someone touched by cancer.
The event wrapped at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. Leading up to the relay, online donations for the June 9-10 event totaled $85,981. Relay committee member Nancy LaMont said after the event that participants raised a total of $142,756 toward the fight against cancer.
LaMont had more than one reason to be proud.
Her son, James Wohlford, was crowned Mr. Relay. Wohlfords two-year-old son Jayden donned a pink dress to compete with his father.
I think what helped him win was when he was asked the best part about being a woman, he answered, Being a mother, LaMont said.

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