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Raising money to fight cancer one lap at a time

Relay for Life will be held in late July at the Crook County Fairgrounds


by: KEVIN SPERL - Rita Amodeo decorates the windows of a car for the upcoming Relay for Life event in Prineville.

On Saturday, July 26 at 10 a.m., the Crook County Fairgrounds will host the 15th annual Relay for Life, hoping to raise $62,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Previously held at Ward Rhoden Stadium, this summer’s reconstruction of the running track presented the local relay committee an opportunity to relocate the event.

“The fairgrounds is the type of place that other towns of our size use,” said Crook County Relay for Life tri-char Brenda Comini. “We checked it out and the county was gracious enough to let us hold the event there.”

Comini added that the committee is excited about being at a different venue for those that have been with the event for a few years, hoping to keep them interested and involved.

The 24-hour marathon is highlighted by four events, bringing attention to those who have battled cancer and survived, those who lost their battle and those currently dealing with the disease.

“Nowhere else can people make such a big impact in the fight to end cancer than to participate in their communities’ Relay for Life event,” said Lauren Olander, Relay for Life specialist with the American Cancer Society.

According to Olander, the first relay event began with one man. In 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked the high school track in Tacoma, Wash., for 24 hours, raising $27,000 for the fight against cancer.

That single man’s effort evolved into a worldwide celebration that has raised nearly $400 million each year. In part because of the Relay for Life and other fundraising, there has been a 20 percent decline in cancer deaths since 1991, saving 1.3 million lives.

Rita Amodeo is one of those survivors, having faced stage four breast cancer nine years ago and a stage one reoccurrence five years later.

“Cancer completely changes your life and makes you slow down and pay attention to things around you,” she said. “It also makes you aware of other people’s physical and medical situations, making you more compassionate.”

It was the ACS's program “Look Good, Feel Good” that Amodeo took advantage of to help her get through her ordeals.

“I was able to get a wig and makeup for example,” she said. “I also got gas cards to help get me to the doctor. Cancer doesn’t only affect you physically and mentally, it financially destroys you as well.”

Amodeo's husband John agreed.

“Cancer starts out as if someone has punched you in the stomach,” he added, “But, after you get over the anxiety you take a deep breath and take one day at a time.”

After 19 surgeries over nine years, Rita Amodeo is now cancer free, but she understands that cancer never stops. Taking part in events like Relay for Life helps her, and others, fight to find a cure.

“Relay became an avenue to reach out to others going through cancer,” said John Amodeo. “We had friends who relayed in honor of Rita, and after she got through it, we took part on behalf of others.”

The event’s opening ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m., bringing participants together to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, to inspire hope by sharing recent accomplishments and progress, and to remind everyone that fighting cancer is a year-round priority

At 10:30 a.m., cancer survivors will take a recognition lap, cheered on by the other participants who line the track, in celebration of their victory over cancer.

A particularly emotional time will arrive at 10 p.m., when the luminaria ceremony takes place.

“This is one of the most solemn and effective parts of the program,” said Rita Amodeo, a member of the relay committee. “It is to honor survivors, remember people who have passed and to support the caregivers.”

Amodeo explained that the luminary bags will be placed around the track and there will be music played and poems read while participants walk the track.

Luminary bags may be purchased for $5 at the fairgrounds until 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 26, and people can create their own bags, decorate them, and have pictures and other things included with them.

The event comes to a close at 9:30 on Sunday morning, and will be a time to remember the lives of those lost and to commit to fighting back against cancer over the upcoming year.

Comini invites everyone to attend the event, even if they are not a part of a fundraising team.

There will be a silent auction from 2 p.m. until 7:30 on Saturday and a barbeque at 6 p.m.

For the men in the crowd, there will be a Mr. Relay contest, with contestants dressing up as a lady and competing to collect the most donations.

“We want everyone to experience what is going on,” she said. “People can come down anytime during the 24 hours to take part in the event.”

As of press time, there were 17 teams and 245 participants that have raised almost $35,000, with the team “whacky m-n-ms,” led by Marilyn Malloy, having raised $5,951.99.

According to Olander, the American Cancer Society has funded $4.7 million in research grants to the state of Oregon in 2014, largely due to Relay for Life dollars. 

“Imagine if it was one of our Oregon researchers that finds the cure for cancer?” asked Olander. “If so, won’t you be glad you were a part of Relay for Life?”

For information about Crook County’s Relay for Life, contact coordinator Lauren Olander at 541-728-4378 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . To sign up, or to donate, visit the relay’s website at relay.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY13National?fr_id=58777&pg=entry.

Residents are also invited to take part in the Crook County Relay for Life car window decorating contest. After decorating a car window, or even a window at a business location, submit a picture of the artwork to the relay's facebook page at www.facebook.com/crookcountyrelayforlife through July 25. Prizes are awarded each Friday prior to the relay taking place.

Diamond sponsors:

Les Schwab, Crook County Fairgrounds and Ericksons Thriftway

Silver sponsors: Seth Crawford, BTL Liners, Central Oregon Independent Practice Association, PMH Auxiliary Volunteers, PMH Foundation – Tough Enough to Wear Pink, St Charles Advanced Illness, Pioneer Memorial Hospital, St. Charles Advanced Care

Bronze Sponsors: Beaver State Historical Gun Makers, Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 1412, SMAF Construction/Western Heavy Haul, St. Vincent de Paul, King’s Auto, LLC, Prineville Eagles #2555, Pro-Line Fabrication, Inc., Hi-Tech Electric, Carson Oil Company, Inc., Redemption House Ministries, Morisette Manufacturing Inc., Grizzly Rock Products, LLC, Ochoco Tails Veterinary Clinic, T3M, Envirotech Services Inc., Eberhard's Dairy Products, Prineville Body & Paint, Ochoco Feed and Farm Supply, Farmers Insurance.




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