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Relaying hope

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Grady Newsom rides on the shoulders of his dad, Brooks Newsom, during the survivor walk portion of the Lake Oswego Relay for Life.

The second annual Lake Oswego Relay for Life nearly doubled in size from last year's inaugural event and surpassed all of the goals that organizers had set.

Twenty-six registered teams participated in last weekend's two-day walk at the Lake Oswego High School track, which featured close to 250 individuals. Currently, the event has raised $51,000 but donations are still being accepted up until August 25.

That surpasses the goals of 25 teams and $43,500 that officials had hoped for.

'We were thrilled. Money is still coming in but we easily beat our goal,' co-organizer Rhonda Cohen said.

There was a positive atmosphere at the track that lasted through Saturday night and into Sunday morning. State senators Richard Devlin and Greg Macpherson each spoke along with cancer survivor Michele DeCourcy.

Then, 27 cancer survivors kicked off the walk, ranging in age from five years old to over 80 for the first lap before the teams took to the track.

Each team set up a campsite around the field at the high school, some of which were decked out in various themes. The Chamber of Commerce won the award for the best campsite, bringing in traffic signs, tape, cones and other construction materials.

'They had a pretty awesome display. The whole atmosphere was really fun,' Cohen said.

The teams, which ranged from 8 to 15 people, generally took 30-minute shifts while walking the track although two individuals walked virtually all through the night, tallying 34 total miles.

At 10 p.m., the moving luminary ceremony started in which over 1,000 candles in paper bags were lit around the track which either honored or recognized family members and loved ones who have been afflicted with cancer.

'That was a very special ceremony,' Cohen said.

And the walkers continued through the night until 9 a.m. on Sunday, culminating with a ceremony and a vocal performance from 11-year-old Madison Barton, who sings with the Oregon Youth Choir. She was the youngest team captain at the event.

This year's spirit award winners was the Walking With Angels team, featuring two co-captains who had each lost a family member to cancer recently.

Cohen chalks much of the success of this year's event up to the advertising that was done and to word of mouth.

'I think people know this even is around. Now we have to educate them on what we do,' Cohen said.

The money raised will go to the American Cancer Society and will be used for research, support programs and educational programs.

Anyone wishing to donate has another month to do so. Donations may be made online at www.acsevents.org/relay/or/lakeoswego, or can be mailed to The American Cancer Society, 0330 SW Curry, Portland, OR, 97239. Please specify that the donation is for the Lake Oswego Relay for Life.