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Lake Oswego teens energize Relay for Life


Young folks turn losses into gains by helping cancer victims

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The 2014 Lake Oswego Relay for LIfe committee proudly holds its banner at the Fourth of July parade last Friday. The teens will have a big presence this coming weekend.The Lake Oswego Relay for Life on Saturday and Sunday has too many teens involved not to be a big success.

Twenty have signed up to volunteer at an event that has turned into a worldwide phenomenon since the first Relay for Life was held in 1985. Since then, relays have raised more than $5 billion to help the American Cancer Society’s efforts to save lives from cancer.

This will be the ninth year for Lake Oswego to host a Relay for Life event, and it has raised $600,000. A lot of credit for this goes to teenagers.

“I believe there are a lot of LO teens because they love the event so much, and because we have all faced hardships and loss because of cancer,” said Cassie Cumberland, who will co-chair this year’s event with Rhonda Cohen.

Relays for Life are organized, overnight community fundraising walks that are held around the world. Participants usually camp out around a track and take turns walking laps. The Lake Oswego event, which will be held at Lake Oswego High School (2501 Country Club Road), begins at noon on Saturday with the playing of the national anthem and opening addresses; it concludes around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday with closing remarks and an awards ceremony.

Relayers will log their miles to the accompaniment of live music. A silent auction will be held throughout the day Saturday, along with a scavenger hunt, carnival games and activities, theme laps, CPR training, Lake Oswego Police Department K9 demonstrations and more.

A new, glow-in-the-dark Lunar Stride, which is sponsored by AMR and the Lake Oswego Fire Department, will kick off Saturday at 9 p.m.

Many of the young volunteers bring tragic stories to the LO Relay for Life committee. But they say that by helping other cancer victims, they achieve healing.

“I’ve done this since my sister died of cancer when I was 10 years old,” said Clayton Dirkse, a senior-to-be at Lake Oswego High School. “When my friend Bailey Goodell formed a team, I wanted to be part of it. Last year, we raised nearly $2,000. This year, I wanted to become more involved. I wanted to plan how things would work. This is a fun way to give back to Lake Oswego.”

Cumberland, Dirkse and the other members of the teen committee haven’t set a specific fundraising goal for this year. They just want to raise MORE. But they also have another purpose.

“My personal goal this year was to really push to have more survivors at the event,” Cumberland said. “Relay for Life has many components, but it’s especially important to remember those we’ve lost and to honor those who are still kicking butt!

“I especially love meeting and talking to the survivors,” Cumberland said, “because they all possess a special zest for life that only survivors of a horrible disease could have.”

Dirkse gives co-chair Cohen credit for being “the glue that holds us all together,” but Cohen would rather shine a light on the teens.

“The Lake Oswego Relay for Life could not happen without the teens who serve as committee members and team captains,” Cohen said. “It is my hope that this event develops a lifelong passion in them for volunteering.”

Other LO teenagers on the committee are Daria Vinchesi, Victoria Espinosa, Madeleine O’Brien, Fiona Byrne, Maddie McMurry, Bashaar Behboodi, Beth Vial, Madison Barton, Jared Kabaker and Zach Azimi.

It’s not too late to form a team or donate to Relay for Life. For more information, call Cohen at 516-749-9447 or go to relayforlife.org/lakeoswegoor.