Fighting cancer with celebration
Wilsonville's Evening of Hope is exactly what its name says it is.
Once a year Wilsonville residents come together to raise money in an attempt to find a cure for cancer, providing inspiration and promise for survivors and those afflicted with the terrible disease in the process. It's a night to remember loved ones as well as honor survivors still alive today.
One of the city's largest annual fundraising events, Evening of Hope organizers are hoping this year's iteration — set for Thursday, Aug. 17 at Town Center Park — will be the biggest and best yet. Formerly known as Relay for Life, the Evening of Hope is still hosted by Relay for Life of Wilsonville but with a few twists. A collaboration with the American Cancer Society, the event used to be an all-night run and walk-a-thon, but organizers recently changed the fundraiser to a four-hour celebration with food, arts and crafts, live music and a luminaria ceremony to appeal to more people.
"We have about 30 sponsors and we're planning on having about 400-700 people attend, but we're hoping for maybe even 1,000," says Relay for Life Chairman Pat Wolfram. "We used to do the all-night run but we couldn't get people to sign up for all the time slots and it was just losing some steam. But people have really seemed to like the new format and we're pleased with it. We have cancer survivors who go every year and it's an event that means a lot to them. It's kind of a public showing of support for those afflicted."
Lois Ann Sharp, a Wilsonville resident and retired physical education teacher at Wilsonville Primary and Boones Ferry Primary, is a cancer survivor who routinely participates in the Evening of Hope. Originally diagnosed in 2008, Sharp says Relay for Life was a big help to her while she went through her battle with cancer. She says she enjoys sharing her experiences with others in their fight, and frequently finds inspiration in hearing the stories of others.
"I attended my first Relay for Life in Sherwood because it just sounded like a place where everyone else would look like me and I could kind of fit in," she says. "I had just finished chemo and surgery, and I'm so glad I decided to go. What was amazing about it and what is still amazing about it is that it's not just about ovarian cancer, or leukemia, or breast cancer, it's about everybody; about the whole community. Because everyone knows someone, whether it's a friend or a relative, who has had it or is going through treatment."
Sharp has attended Wilsonville's event ever since, participating in the Survivors' Lap to kick each Evening of Excellence off. She says she's a big fan of the new format, and expects high turnout and participation from the community this year.
"There's music, there's games, activities — there's something for everybody and it really is a community celebration," Sharp says. "There's always a keynote speaker and they're always a cancer survivor with an incredible story of their difficult adventure. It's just awe-inspiring what some of these people had to go through. It's just an inspirational night."
Relay for Life of Wilsonville has a goal of $40,000 raised from the Evening of Hope, and was already at $14,000 a couple weeks before the big night. Participants are encouraged to register with Relay for Life of Wilsonville to create fundraising teams to bolster efforts. The organization also looked to raise additional funds with other events preceding the Evening of Hope. They hosted a Paint and Sip event Sunday, Aug. 6 and a wine tasting and silent auction Tuesday, Aug. 8 in order to spread awareness and raise funds.
The Evening of Hope is slated for Thursday, Aug. 17 from 6-10 p.m. at Town Center Park.
"It's a perfect opportunity for people to interact with the community and enjoy some food and music while helping an important cause," Wolfram says.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Evening of Hope: Hosted by Relay for Life of Wilsonville
WHEN: Thursday, Aug. 17 from 6-10 p.m.
WHERE: Town Center Park
TO REGISTER: To register a fundraising team go to facebook.com/pg/relayforlifeofwilsonville/events/