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Relay For Life raises more than $80,000

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By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

They came in multitudes, the cancer survivors and the friends and families who support them. They came to celebrate life and raise awareness and money to guarantee more will join their ranks next year as part of the American Cancer Society's Enumclaw Relay For Life.

Among the survivors was Gail Bostwick, this year's guest speaker. She is celebrating “almost” a year of survival.

Bostwick was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent surgery in the fall. Chemotherapy started in January and, as of Friday night when the festivities kicked off at the Enumclaw Public Library, Bostwick was cancer-free.

“My story is no different than anyone else's,” she said, emphasizing the importance of testing and early detection. “What happened to me can happen to anyone.”

Most everyone at the event had a story to tell.

Six-year cancer survivor Sally Kladnick was wearing a banner in honor of her sister-in-law Joan Moulden, who died in April of inflammatory breast cancer.

Eight-year-old Ethan Wallin walked with the survivors celebrating a one-year victory over thyroid cancer.

And Barbara Smith was there flaunting last year's front page, “above-the-fold” Courier-Herald photograph of her mother Audrey Mueller. Mueller, who has been battling breast cancer for some time, was with her family in spirit at the Relay. Her cancer forced her to stay home, but her family was out in full force.

“She fought the hard fight for a long time,” Smith said. “If she were here she would say, ‘God bless you every day in every way.'”

Smith is a cancer survivor. She came from California with Mueller's grandson, Brian Smith, and niece, Sharron Zoyhafski. Mueller's brother from Michigan was also there.

Rather than wear the purple cancer-survivor American Cancer Society T-shirt, Smith opted to don a pink button down and matching shoes, the color dedicated to breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 1999 and walked her lap around the course not only for her mother and for herself, but for those who may be diagnosed in the future.

That's what the Relay is about, and as the night progressed, the festivities took on a more serious tone as a record-number of luminaries were lit to honor those who are fighting the fight and those who have lost the battle. For the first time in its approximately six year history, there were enough luminaries, 1,099, to circle the entire block.

“That was great to see,” said Relay co-chair Hans Nelson.

The tone turned less serious in the wee morning hours as ultimate Frisbee broke out and by the time Saturday morning rolled around there was celebration again as the Relay volunteers and teams cheered the final fundraising total - $80,000 with more still pouring in.

“When we went in at opening ceremonies we were at $35,000,” Nelson said. He credited the jump in donations from the silent auction, which brought in $2,000, and the generous folks who dropped by while downtown.

“That's why we love the library,” Nelson said of the location. “I was thrilled.”

About 20 teams participated in this year's event. This year's top fundraising team was Team Lucarelli, which raised money in the name of Tony Lucarelli. The high school student lost a battle with cancer last year that he had been fighting since elementary school. This year's Relay was dedicated to Tony and Team Lucarelli raised about $12,000.

The No. 2 honors went to Enumclaw Regional Hospital's team with $9,000 in donations. And Marilyn Hash's Happy Hoovers took third with $5,400.

The best decorated campsite award went to the Rowdy Ropers.

“This year half the participants were kids and youth,” Nelson said. “That was great to see. It was great to see all the community out there.”

The American Cancer Society will continue to accept donations to the Enumclaw Relay For Life through the end of August. Donations may be sent to American Cancer Society, Enumclaw Relay, 1551 Broadway, Suite 200, Tacoma, 98402.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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