‘Relay for Life’ folks walk for a cancer cure

Discover why hundreds of people took turns, all day and all night long, walking in outer East Portland …

In the Russell neighborhood, participants’ canopies and tents are set up in the sports field at Portland Christian School, as the 2019 “Portland Relay for Life” gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Again this year, Portland Christian School on NE San Rafael Street, just east of NE 122nd Avenue, was where the American Cancer Society “Portland Relay for Life” event took place on August 10-11.

It looked like a cross between a campout and an endurance sports event – tents were set up in the center of the school’s track, and teams of walkers took turns striding around the track.

Pausing for a photo during this year’s walk is Portland Relay for Life “Event Lead” Angela Duncan.

“At this annual event, we celebrate cancer survivors, and we remember those who passed away from cancer.  And, at the same time, we ‘fight back’ against cancer by educating the community, raising awareness, and raising funds,” said “Event Lead” Angela Duncan.

“We want to see an end to cancer one day,” Duncan explained. “And, in the meantime, those who are going through cancer still need support; the money that we raise goes to supporting those who are fighting cancer right now,” she told East Portland News.

Team members walk the track as this year’s “Relay for Life” continues.

The volunteers who put on the walk, and those who participate by raising money for pledges for team members walking continuously for the duration of the relay. “It’s a 24 hour event – because cancer never sleeps.  So, throughout it, having people walking signifies that cancer survivors are being supported; we’re going to make a positive difference,” Duncan said.

During the two day event, some 500 volunteers were registered to participate in a total of 32 teams, each offering booths for on-site fundraising – by offering services ranging from face painting, to selling crafts, snacks, and food – even providing a massage therapist.

Showing the tie-dye T-shirts and bandannas she’d made, and selling them to benefit “Relay for Life”, is artist Cristen Smith, accompanied by the Woodland Park Baptist Church “Team Aristacats”.

What’s motivated her to take time from her “day job”, as operations manager a company called Hip Hemp, to volunteer, Duncan said, is that her wife is an eight-year cancer survivor.

“We were brought to this relay when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and fell in love with this, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event,” Duncan noted. “As soon as she was cancer-free, we knew that we were going to ‘give back’ and volunteer for the organization.”

About their host, Portland Christian School, the organizer said “It’s  been so amazing; every year they’ve welcomed us back, partnering with us for eight years, opening their facilities, and showing that they love having us, and we love working with them.”

As daylight turns to night, luminaria light the way for team members as they take turns walking the relay course all through the night.

All of the participants were looking for the after-dark “Luminaria Ceremony”, where paper bags lit with long-burning candles light the track. “Each luminaria bag represents a person who is been lost to cancer, or who is fighting cancer,” Duncan explained. “Those walking through the night, see the luminaria and it reminds them, ‘I can keep going’ for the cause.”

In total, they hoped to raise $20,000 in this fundraiser. Find out more, including how to get involved in their next “Relay for Life” to be held on August 8, 2020, by visiting their webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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