|Cancer fighters preparing for Relay for Life
RP-Cotati looks to top last year’s total of $72,000
On Saturday, June 23, cancer survivors, fighters and their supporters will gather in Sonoma Mountain Village for the Relay for Life. Nearly 3.5 million people participate in this event in 5,000 counties and 20 additional countries worldwide.
Team members take turns completing laps around a track, participate in fundraising activities and ceremonies including the Luminaria, a spectacular event in which candles are lit to represent those touched by cancer.
Relay For Life began in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash. Last year’s Rohnert Park-Cotati event raised over $72,000.
It is an event created to “celebrate, remember and fight back,” says Pam Wittner, who has been on the committee for four years. “It’s really breathtaking to see the number of people we’ve lost, are still battling or who have survived.”
Wittner is also on the chair for Bark for Life, a canine version of the Relay for Life, which is in its third year.
The dogs will walk for four hours on July 21 in Cotati’s La Plaza Park.
“Many cancers have genetic similarities. If we find one cure, we find the other as well,” she said.
The money raised goes to the American Cancer Society and she invites anyone and their canine companion to the event next month.
Besides providing aid to cancer research, the direct results of donations for both events can be recognized in programs such as Road to Recovery, supplying rides to cancer patients who have no one to drive them to treatments, the creation of wigs and providing cosmetologists who teach them how to apply makeup during chemotherapy in order to increase confidence during their battle.
Lisa Collodi, also a four-year committee member for team recruitment, is a prime example of an impassioned relayer. On her eighth year, she is a 20-year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She has lost her mother and father-in-law to lung cancer and an uncle three weeks ago. She was also diagnosed with malignant melanoma a year ago. She hopes someday everyone in the community can become involved in some way.
“I don’t just relay once,” she says. “I relay all year. I walk so my kids will never have to hear that they have cancer.”
The Relay for Life is an overnight event where each team lavishly decorates their campsites and offers games in order to educate the public. Wittner, who is on her eighth year of relaying as well, has a treasure chest of trivia questions to go along with her team’s pirate theme.
“One-third of the 500,000 cancer patients attribute to inactivity and poor diet,” she says, stressing the importance of getting the word out and encouraging all to come join them on Saturday.
Starting with a survivors’ brunch provided by Sally’s Tomatoes, the event begins at 10 a.m.
To come and support is free, and attendees may be surprised to see whose lives have been impacted by cancer.