Hundreds walk in SE Portland all-night Relay for Life

See what happened when 48 teams of walkers – from all over SE Portland – came together, at Floyd Light Middle School, to celebrate life while raising money to battle cancer …

With their way lit by luminaria – a candle inside a decorated paper bag lampshade, dedicated to a victim or survivor of cancer – Relay for Life participants circle the Floyd Light Middle School track.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Every summer, since their first event in 1986, local chapters of the American Cancer Society have sponsored a special fundraiser called “Relay For Life®”.

“These events honor cancer survivors, pay tribute to the lives lost to the disease, and raise money to help fight it,” is how Tamara Marmol, Co-Chair of the SE Portland Relay for Life, put it – when we visited their 2009 event on August 14, at the Floyd Light Middle School track just east of SE 106th Avenue.

Kathy Allworth, event Co-Chair, and Fred Meyer training director, and Co-Chair Tamara Marmol, a buyer with Fred Meyer, say they both feel energized to see the large turnout at this year’s Relay for Life.

Every dollar raised, Marmol assured, stays in the community to help those whose lives are touched by cancer.

In addition to her “day job” of being a children’s clothing buyer at Fred Meyer’s Inner SE Portland headquarters offices, Marmol said she’s taken on the responsibility because cancer has impacted her life. “I have many family members and friends, sadly, who’ve been affected by cancer.  In both my own family, and my husband’s family, there are cancer survivors, as well as those whom the disease has taken. I have several good friends who are, luckily, survivors.  That’s why do I do it.”

Cancer survivors take the first lap of the relay. But, the Relay for Life isn’t a somber event. Bands play and volunteer groups offer food, creating a festive atmosphere.

After dark, volunteers light the candles in paper-bag luminaria to remind volunteers of the event’s importance.

Candles guide the way
“A highlight is the luminaria ‘Ceremony of Hope’ held after dark to honor cancer survivors, and to remember loved ones lost to cancer,” Marmol noted. “The luminaria candles line the track, lighting the way for the participants. They are left burning throughout the night to remind participants of the importance of their contributions.”

The event outgrew its former location, Sellwood Riverfront Park, a year ago, and moved to spacious Floyd Light Park. This year, 48 teams of participants set up camp; the 650 participants had obtained pledges and donations in order to participate, during the 24-hour event.

Pam Olson, Farmers Insurance agent and Vice President of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, walks at the Relay for Life.

Soon, we saw Pam Olson, an agent with Farmers Insurance and also East Portland Chamber of Commerce’s VP, as well as the Chamber’s President, Rich Sorem, of Fullerton Insurance, and his wife Ginny, walking the track.

“We’re at Camp 45,” Sorem said. “When you walk around this track, it is a moving, yet surreal experience to see the luminaria dedicated to those touched by cancer. It reminds us that we all know people whose lives have been touched by this disease. While there’s good, positive energy here, it is a solemn experience, as well.”

Sorem said their team of a dozen Chamber members were walking, so that, “Hopefully, we can find a cure for cancer, and help those afflicted by it until we do.”

Cancer survivor and noted Portland blues musician Sunny Hess rocks out with her band, providing upbeat live music again at this year’s Relay for Life event.

Event expected to raise $75,000
“We’ve raised $50,000 going into the event,” Marmol said. “Each of our teams bring in funds as part of their participation. We expect to raise another $25,000 before the event ends tomorrow.”

We stepped aside to let a large group of participants pass. “But it’s more than about the money. We are here to celebrate life,” Marmol added.

To learn more about what the Oregon Chapter of the American Cancer Society is doing, see their website: CLICK HERE.

Throughout the night, participants continue the Relay for Life.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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