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OC unites against common cancer foe

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Cancer survivors wearing special T-shirts walked the first lap at last year's Relay for Life in Oregon City.If you are in or near the Oregon City area on June 28 and 29, and you want to do something more fun than Disneyland, Travis Swanson urges you to come to Relay for Life Oregon City/West Linn.

It’s free, there are no lines, there is plenty of parking, and visitors will be supporting members of the community, he said.

Swanson is the director of media and marketing for the event, held every year as a benefit for the American Cancer Society. It takes place on the track at Clackamas Community College in Oregon City. It begins at 10 a.m. on June 28, and ends at 10 a.m. June 29.

Participants may walk the track in teams or as individuals, but the mission is the same —to raise money so that ACS can continue offering services to cancer patients for free every day of the year, 24 hours a day. That is why the relay lasts 24 hours, said Jessica Wolfram, ACS specialist for Relay for Life.

Relay round-up

Organizers choose a theme for the event each year, and this year’s is Western Relay Round-up, said Jamie Zilverberg, co-chairman of the Relay for Life OC/WL.

Men will be encouraged to participate in Mr. Relay/Mr. Saloon Girl, where one man from each team dresses up as a saloon girl and walks the track asking for money.

“We don’t ask, we entice,” Swanson said, noting that a variety of activities are set up to raise funds, including square dance lessons taught by the River City Dancers and a chuck-wagon dinner for $5 at 5 p.m.

The big musical event of the evening is the free concert by Cloverdayle, a band with local roots, now based in Nashville, Tenn.

Cloverdayle will perform in the middle of the track, while walkers participate in the relay and others sit on blankets or dance. Organizers will also pass around a cowboy boot to collect donations.

At 10 p.m. participants will light luminarias, paper bags with candles, arranged around the perimeter of the track. They may be decorated in memory of a loved one who died or may be in honor of a survivor.

“We will take a moment to honor them as we walk a silent lap. It is so moving,” Zilverberg said, adding that people can bring their own luminarias or purchase them and decorate them on-site.

She noted that guest speaker Chasity Glass, author of “Even If I Am,” will speak about her husband’s death from colon cancer.

The relay concludes Sunday morning with a pancake breakfast, a nondenominational church service held by Grandview Baptist Church, and a closing ceremony, “where we thank everyone and announce how much money we made,” Zilverberg said.

People may register for Relay for Life of Oregon City/West Linn from now until the day of the event, and members of the community are encouraged to attend.

“Come be a spectator. There will be food, music, games and activities for kids. Enjoy the day here. It is a community event,” Zilverberg said, adding that people should visit ocrelay.org for more information.

Support for survivors

The goal of the relay is to raise money, but it is also a way to “celebrate survivors,” said Tammy Angier, the accounting and registration chairwoman, and a stage-3 breast cancer survivor herself.

Special events are set up just for cancer survivors who are given purple T-shirts for easy identification, and survivors walk the first lap of the relay.

“After the federal government, the ACS is the leading research arm looking for treatments and a cure for every type of cancer in every community. I support this event because I don’t want anybody else to hear that they have cancer,” Angier said.

As an oncology nurse practitioner working at Providence Cancer Center, Zilverberg “understands every day how important research is, and this event is a wonderful way to support cancer survivors and my patients,” she said.

Swanson, the captain of team Alpha Xi Zeta, CCC’s honor society, said the relay “gives the community the opportunity to become educated about what cancer is and how it affects the community.”

Wolfram, who volunteered with ACS before becoming an employee, said Relay for Life “is the vehicle that carries the mission of ACS to each community. We are fundraising every day.”

She began participating in the relay with her family, as a way to honor her grandfather who died from cancer.

“It gave us a way to channel our grief and anger, and it is a positive and constructive way to give back,” Wolfram said.

Everyone has a story

One of the amazing things about the relay, Zilverberg said, is that “you start talking to people, and there are hundreds of stories” about why the participants are there.

Swanson said one of the many reasons he returns is to honor a childhood friend he reconnected with last year. At that time, his friend thought he had beat cancer, but lost his life several months later.

“I want to show his daughters that I am still involved. I think he would like that,” Swanson said.

Oregon City resident Dennis Bando, a 64-year-old retired teacher, decided to do something special this year, and since 2014 is the 25th anniversary of the death of his mother-in-law from cancer, and he’s grateful for his own good health, he plans to walk 25 hours.

“I feel it is important for me to do this to honor my mother-in-law, others who couldn’t be with us due to cancer, and to those men, women and children who have survived. I’m honored and humbled to take part in this in the hope that our continued support will help continue the research that will someday find a cure for cancer,” he said.

As a cancer survivor, Angier has a more personal reason for participating in relay events.

“I want to highlight how celebrated and honored I feel as a survivor when I come to these events. From the first lap I ever walked, I felt loved and supported, and I met others who were going through what I was. This is an amazing opportunity to feel loved,” she said.

Finally, Zilverberg added, “This event is a time to celebrate cancer survivors. They inspire me — they face cancer with dignity, grace and courage, and it is an honor to come out and support these people.”

Relay for Life

What: A fundraiser for the American Cancer Society

When: 10 a.m. June 28, to 10 a.m. June 29

Where: The track at Clackamas Community College, 19600 S. Molalla Ave., Oregon City

Details: The event will feature teams and individuals walking to honor and celebrate those who have dealt with cancer. Other activities include food, music, games and more. Registration remains open throughout the day of the event.

More: For information about the relay, visit ocrelay.org.

American Cancer Society: Relay for Life funds the mission of ACS, which is to provide support and information to cancer sufferers and their families, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-227-2345 to talk to an ACS cancer information specialist, or visit cancer.org for online support.



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