The onset of rain in the wee hours of the morning did little to dampen the spirit of the cancer survivors and others who had gathered on the track at Friday night, June 17, to do their bit in the battle against the insidious disease.
They were there to participate in the 2011 Relay for Life of Gig Harbor, an all-night walk/run to raise funds for cancer research, education and patient support.
Nearly 500 people whose lives had been touched by cancer in one way or another joined in on the 18-hour relay this year. By the time they all crossed the finish line at noon Saturday, their efforts had raised more than $163,000.
“That’s always a good thing. Everyone seemed really happy when they left even if it was wet,” said Event Chairperson Pamela Massey.
The total figure also could still climb over the next couple of months, as people can continue to donate toward the 2011 relay until Aug. 31.
In its 15th year, the annual Gig Harbor event is part of the American Cancer Society's (ACS) Relay for Life program, in which participants form teams and then take turns walking or running a track overnight up to 24 hours.
Gig Harbor’s 500 relayers participated on one of 45 teams put together by local businesses, families and individuals. Another 145 cancer survivors and their caregivers were also on hand to kick things off by taking the first relay lap around the track before attending the Survivor’s Social hosted in their honor.
Of the 45 teams that participated, the top fundraiser this year was Massey’s Team Alexei Salon, raising $15,768. Penlight Power walkers ranked second, with $14,837, followed by Moms on a Mission, which raised $14,835.
The fair weather turned to rain at about 3 a.m. Saturday morning and continued on and off throughout the rest of the event. Some relayers left early, after they completed their scheduled track time. But most stayed, said Massey, who owns Alexei Salon in Gig Harbor.
"We’re used to rain,” she added.
With corporate sponsorships paying all the costs to put on the event, "all the money we raise goes to fight cancer. That's the winner," said Massey.
About 20 teams have already pre-registered for Gig Harbor’s 2012 Relay for Life. Massey considers that a very good head start, although she won’t be cheering teams on next year as the event chairperson.
After four years in the role, she will be turning that baton over to someone new in order to spend more time in the legislative arena as an advocate.
“I’ll not be giving up Relay. No,” said Massey. “I’ve got too much invested in helping find treatments and the cure. There are too many in my family that I’ve lost to cancer.”
As the top two funding resources for cancer research, Massey said, “the [federal government and ACS] need to work hand in hand to make sure we have the resources available to knock this thing.