Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:41 PM on Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Relay for Life raises $94,000

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

2012 Relay for Life of Homer event coordinator and cancer survivor Marilyn Parrett dances as she leads other cancer survivors in the first relay lap on Friday.

With 16 teams, more than 200 participants and more sponsors than in the previous three years Relay for Life has been held in Homer, this year's event blew its fundraising goal out of the water.

Benefiting the American Cancer Society, the Homer relay goal this year was $77,000. At last count the amount raised during the Friday-Saturday event exceeded $94,000.

"Look what you have all done," Marilyn Parrett, event coordinator, told the crowd at Saturday afternoon's closing ceremony. "It's a beautiful thing."

Amid cheers and applause from family, friends and other participants, a smiling group of cancer survivors kicked off the Relay in the parking lot of Homer High School on Friday evening. Parrett, a breast cancer survivor, lead that lap, waving a flag in the color associated with Relay purple and dancing to background music.

Caregivers were honored in a second lap, followed by a lap for supporters of the event. Parrett's T-shirt collection from all four Homer Relays illustrates how support for the event has grown. There were 14 named on the back of the 2009 shirt; 24 listed in 2010; 35 in 2011; and 54 this year.

"This is one of the greatest Relays in the state," Parrett bragged as the event began Friday. Then she revised her comment. "OK, we are the greatest. The magic of Relay is how all of us come together. "

Relayers came in all sizes: toddlers in strollers, youngsters carrying the "Team Puppies" banner, energetic high school students, parents walking hand-in-hand with their children, husbands and wives circling the course together. Some Relayers were pushed in wheelchairs. Some walked quietly by themselves.

They also came with their own reasons for being there. Survivors were celebrated for their victory over the disease. Others were honored and encouraged in the battle they are waging. Still others grandparents, parents, children, siblings, spouses, friends who did not survive their fight against cancer were remembered.

The members of some teams took turns on the course. Others like Bobby Ness and Fred Eddy, members of VFW Post 10221s Warriors Against Cancer team continued to circle the course, taking short breaks only when absolutely necessary. By Saturday afternoon, Ness pedometer showed she had walked more than 33 miles and Eddy more than 28.

Food, beverages, massages, face painting, games for young and old, live music, haircuts for Locks of Love, a nonprofit that provides hairpieces to children with long-term hair loss, and a number of team events kept the energy level high.

More than 280 luminaria — white paper sacks bearing the names of those honored and remembered — lined the Relay course. Candles burning inside each of them gave light through the night. As a final act, the luminaria were gathered Saturday afternoon and burned before a hushed gathering of Relayers.

"We can beat it," said Parrett of the war against cancer and the race to find a cure. "As long as we fight together."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.