Everyone who participates in a Relay for Life has a story to tell, and they all want the same thing: to find a cure for cancer.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jackie and Michael Henderson celebrated their marriage on the beach in Belize on May 5, 2012.In September 2011, a young woman named Jackie Swanson was assigned to mentor Michael Henderson, a new member of the organizing committee for Milwaukie’s Relay for Life. And then something unexpected happened.

“It was love at first sight, and we were married the following May on a beach in Belize. We have continued to volunteer together, and agreed to organize and chair the 2014 Milwaukie Relay for Life,” she said.

She added, “It’s a labor of love for us. As a couple, it brings us closer in our relationship to work toward something both of us are so passionate about, which is to find a cure.”

Honoring a loved one

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Michael and Jackie Henderson are pictured above within the open arms of the mascot for Geico, the Milwaukie Relay for Life sponsor in 2012.Jackie Henderson, first became involved with Milwaukie’s Relay for Life in 2008, after relocating to the area for her job. She had been heavily involved with Relay for Life in Wisconsin, starting in early 2000, when a dear friend was diagnosed with a fatal form of brain cancer.

He died in 2006, and Henderson vowed she would continue helping raise funds until a cure is found.

“Since 2000, I have raised over $50,000 for the American Cancer Society, and the teams I have been a member of have collectively raised over $120,000,” Henderson said.

Michael Henderson “had lost his mother, Peggy, to cancer the previous year, and wanted to do something to make a difference, so his family organized a team to fundraise at the event, and he agreed to serve as the caregiver chairperson,” his wife said.

“Cancer has touched every single one of us, either directly or indirectly. By raising money and awareness, we can fight back together against this terrible disease until a cure can be found. Relay for Life is the largest fundraising event that supports the American Cancer Society,” she said.

‘Cancer never sleeps’

The Milwaukie Relay for Life will be held at LaSalle High School from 10 a.m. July 12, until 10 a.m. July 13.

“It’s a 24-hour event, because cancer never sleeps. The first lap will be in honor of all of our cancer survivors. They are the reason we have hope that a cure will be found,” Henderson said.

At 6 p.m., the group holds a Fight Back ceremony, which honors all survivors and caregivers. The luminaria ceremony, featuring decorated, candle-lit bags, takes place at 9:45 p.m.

“That’s where we remember those we’ve lost and honor those who are fighting, and at 9 a.m. on Sunday we will have our closing ceremony and awards. During the 24 hours, we have live bands playing, games for children and adults, a bounce house and other fun activities going on,” Jackie Henderson said.

She and her husband are looking for someone else to come forward next year and take over the leadership.

But, Henderson added, “In the 14 years that I’ve been a volunteer for this organization, I have been touched by so many people and their stories of inspiration and hope, and also stories of loss and heartbreak. The Milwaukie Relay for Life is a great forum to be able to help in some small way to help finish the fight against cancer.”

Run for your life

What: Milwaukie Relay for Life

When: From 10 a.m. Saturday, July 12, to 10 a.m. Sunday, July 13.

Where: La Salle High School, 11999 S.E. Fuller Road, Milwaukie.

More: Visit and search for Milwaukie, Oregon, for more information about the relay, or contact Jackie Henderson, co-chair, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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