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Festive atmosphere for a Serious Event

Relay for Life raises funds for the American Cancer Society
by: FILE PHOTO Vern Uyetake, Grady Newsome, then 3, hitches a ride on his father Brooks’ shoulders. Both Newsomes started last year’s relay by participating in the survivor lap around the track at Lake Oswego District Stadium. Grady Newsome battles leukemia.

'Everyone has a cancer story,' Stephanie Barton, co-chair for the Lake Oswego Relay for Life, said.

'It creates a common bond between people.'

The third annual Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. It will take place July 12 to 13 at Lake Oswego District Stadium.

'It's a festive, almost carnival-like atmosphere,' Barton said.

In its first two years the event raised $92,000. As the third relay approaches, almost $30,000 more has been received.

The occasion is a 24-hour event involving 30 teams. The goal is to have a member of each team walking on the track throughout the 24-hour period.

'It is symbolic in that cancer never stops,' Barton said.

Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad will speak at the opening ceremonies along with state Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, at 10 a.m. The event kicks off with a cancer survivor lap at 10:15 a.m.

'The survivors are so important to this,' Barton said.

This year's participants better pull out the Halloween costumes and get ready for some fun around the track. The event will include themed laps such as a Disney lap, glow in the dark lap at 3 a.m., a cowboy lap and, at midnight, a pajama lap.

Participants also look forward to a new theme every year. This year's theme is 'There's No Place Like Hope' compared to last year's theme 'Field of Dreams: If you Build it, they will Come.'

Barton's involvement in the relay started three years ago when her father died from a hard-fought battle with brain cancer.

'It was a really good opportunity to channel the grief and sorrow into a positive experience,' Barton said.

She also is a member of the Parent Teacher Association at Oak Creek Elementary School and is an active member in her church.

Receiving an outstanding response from the community through her work for the relay, Barton is ready for this year's festivities, which include a campout on the football field for the participants and cancer survivors, complete with tents.

'It's nice to have the local event because it's something everyone can relate to,' Brown said. 'There is a snowball effect and it gets better every year.'

To add to the carnival atmosphere, each team participates in fundraising activities such as a bounce house for the kids or a fastest pitch competition for the sports fans.

'There's something for everybody,' Barton said.

As of August 2007, the American Cancer Society has given more than $430 million to cancer research, Barton said.

'A big percentage of this money comes from Relay for Life events around the world,' Barton added.

The money also goes to patient programs such as Reach to Recover, Road to Recovery and Look Good, Feel Better. The Look Good, Feel Better program helps cancer patients obtain wigs during chemotherapy treatments and applies makeup to many patients as well.

Also at the event is an emotionally moving Luminaria Ceremony starting at 9:45 p.m. In the ceremony, special white bags with candles inside of them called luminaria are often decorated with a name in honor of or in memory of a loved one that has been affected by cancer. Luminaria are a way to celebrate the life of survivors as well as honor those who have lost their lives to the disease.

In another effort to raise money, both silent and live auctions are held starting at 11 a.m.

Auction items include a Toshiba 37-inch LCD television donated by Best Buy, wine tasting at Oswego Hills Vineyard and Winery and a Sunriver getaway.

Later in the evening, the Lake Oswego Lions Club will be providing a barbecue dinner for $5 per person starting at 5 p.m. (Cash only will be accepted.) The annual Oregon State Beavers versus University of Oregon Ducks tug of war is on the agenda as well.

Starting at 8:15 p.m., Roots Revival Blues Band will be performing. The band consists of all local teenagers.

On Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m., a pancake breakfast will be held.

Last, but not least, the favorite activity for the kids: The scavenger hunt. Seasoned participants to the relay are asked to bring odds and ends items such as paper clips or a crayon for the kids to scavenge for, Barton said.

For more information, contact Stephanie Barton at 503-675-0111 or visit the Relay for Life Web site at http://events.cancer.org/rfllakeoswegoor .