24-hour long Southeast relay walk aids cancer patients

Check in, and see why so many people stayed up all night to help out the American Cancer Society – by participating in the 2010 Relay for Life

Janet Olson, Relay for Life registration chair for the past five years, and a planner at Fred Meyer stores, joins event chair Tammy Marmol, who is also with Fred Meyer, in the administrative tent.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The number of participants in the American Cancer Society’s annual August “Relay for Life” fundraising event grows each year, thanks the dedication of hundreds of volunteers.

For the third year running, the effort was led by Tammy Marmol, a buyer who works in Fred Meyer’s corporate offices in the Brooklyn neighborhood. “I am on the Volunteer Oversight Committee for Fred Meyer Stores, so I’m involved with a lot of charities – and I’m so glad I’m given the opportunity to chair the Relay for Life.”

Of all the charitable causes with which Marmol is involved, “I take the time to do this, because it’s such a great cause. I know many cancer patient survivors through my friends, family, and work. Chairing the Relay for Life is a way I feel I make a difference.”

Her personal connection is that both her father-in-law and her mother-in-law are survivors of cancer, Marmol related, as are several good friends. “I haven’t yet lost anyone to cancer.”

With the help of a corps of 30 volunteers, Marmol organized some 700 participants into 66 teams, who participated in this year’s overnight on August 14-15 at Floyd Light Middle School.

The theme of this unique, participatory event is this – the hope for a cure to cancer, and helping those who are afflicted.

During this annual event, the teams set up “camps” around an athletic track, and participants take turns, relay-style, walking or jogging for a 24-hour period to fulfill pledges they’ve taken leading up to the event.

“We’re hoping to raise $100,000, but the 97° weather put a bit of a damper on our actual turnout,” Marmol said ruefully. “Although the daytime conditions were tough, it’s nothing compared to the life of a person and their family who has had to suffer the effects of cancer.”

All of the funds raised here stay in the Pacific Northwest, Marmol pointed out. “It’s going to help people, right here, who need it to pay for medical supplies, transportation, and treatments they may not otherwise be able to afford.”

At their camp, Team Freddies’ leader Cheri Judy takes a minute with work associates, and with teammates Randy Haggard, a financial developer, and Suzy Mangus, an operations specialist at the Fred Meyer corporate office in Brooklyn.

Partway around the Floyd Light track from the administrative area was the camp for “Team Freddies” – workers from the Fred Meyer headquarters building on SE 22nd Avenue, led by a company operations director, Cheri Judy.

“Toward the end of event, you feel tired,” admitted Judy. “But the emotional feeling you get from participating – well, there’s just nothing like it – it’s so good. It’s wonderful to know that you have made a real difference.”

Like many participants, Judy said her reasons for heading a relay team are very personal. “I have several friends and relatives who have been struck by cancer; some have beat it, some have not. I’ve been involved for six years, because it’s that important to me.”

Richard Sorem, Rose City & Associates, President EPCC; Lauren Bishop, Ken Markert, Hearts of Gold Pet Services; Rick Rankin, Portland Ad. Pam Olson, Farmer’s Insurance, Brian Olson with Handy Solutions.

Strong showing for Chamber of Commerce team
Further around the track was the camp for Team EPCC – the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, led by Rick Rankin, Occupational Medicine Director at Adventist Medical Center.

“We have an awesome team,” Rankin enthused. “We have great support; and it gets better every year. It was really warm today, but we’re hanging in there. And, it’s good for out team, because we’ve been selling ice cold drinks to raise even more money to fight cancer.”

Being 15 members strong, Rankin speculated, Team EPCC would most likely hit the $1,000 donation mark. “Along with family and friends, we have 30 to 40 people helping us out this year.”

Cancer survivor, Rick Rankin, says he dedicated this candle to a friend he met running marathons – and recently passed away after being stricken by cancer.

Hundreds of luminaria light the way
Lighting the way of walkers at night at these events are hundreds of luminaria – white paper bags holding votive candles – typically bearing an inscription on them commemorating someone who succumbed to cancer.

As darkness fell, Rankin looked for a luminaria he’d dedicated, and lit the candle. “This candle is for David, a fellow with whom I trained for the Los Angeles Marathon years ago. We got out of touch. I just found out that, two weeks ago, he’d passed away from cancer. This luminaria is for him.”

As participants lit luminaria around the track, Marmol took the stage, and again thanked everyone present for helping out. Then, she introduced Rankin, and asked him to tell his personal story about dealing with cancer.

Outer East Portland’s Rick Ranking, with Portland Adventist Medical Center, tells of his battle with cancer.

Holds on to hope of becoming a grandfather
Rankin told how, after he and his wife had raised their family, they’d decided to move from California to Medford, to enjoy an “increased quality of life”.

“We were really enjoying life,” Ranking continued. “Then, on a business trip in Portland 7½ years ago, I noticed this spot on my thigh.”

Doctors said it was probably a cyst; but then he developed a lump in his chest. “I got a call; they said I to come home immediately; I had stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Boy, talk about your life changing in an instant.”

Although given less than a 5% chance to survive, Rankin calmed doctors overseeing his trial medical program. “I just told them, ‘It’s OK, I’m going to live to be a grandfather.”

After 18 months of chemotherapy – his wife would drive him to his appointments to San Francisco from Medford – Rankin told of how he’d been in an ICU for five days at a time; “Six different types of chemo, 24 hours a day. I didn’t complain. I kept telling all the medical people worked on me, ‘I’m going to be a grandpa’. With the support of my wife, and family, that’s what got me through. Because of the power of prayer, friendship, and family, that’s why I’m here today.”

With the dedicated luminaria lighting their way, participants in the 2010 Relay for Life walk the track, through the night and into the following day.

Now, 7½ years after his diagnosis, Rankin said he has gotten his wish. “I remember saying how I just wanted to ‘hold a little butt in my hand’ – and now, I have two grandchildren.”

Ranking concluded, “I believe in the power of positive thinking. I believe that there is hope, and that’s why you are all here today. God bless you for what you are doing; I thank all of you. Because of what you all do – I am here.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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