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Buckley Relay ready to roll Friday

By Brenda Sexton, The Courier-Herald

Beth Meshke calls it a "Survivor" reception, but unlike the hit television show that it takes its name from, her survivor reception is for those who have survived cancer.

Meshke is hoping more survivors join the celebration that kicks off the American Cancer Society's Buckley Relay For Life at 6 p.m. Friday at the White River High School track.

Relay For Life is an 18-hour event where teams of community members raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Meshke will not only organize them, she will walk among them.

Meshke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and is winning her battle. Last year in Buckley's inaugural Relay For Life, she was invited to participate in the Survivor's Lap.

She called the lap inspirational, touching and moving.

"There are people cheering just because you're alive," she said.

She admitted she was hesitant at first.

"I decided to participate because I wanted to express to the fund-raising teams my appreciation for their efforts that help fight cancer and help people cope with having cancer," she said.

"Although I originally came to support others, I was surprised at how much I got out of the experience of walking in the Survivor Lap. It sounds corny that 'survivors' get a medal and walk around the track while people clap and cheer. However, I highly recommend it to others. It turned out to be quite a moving experience. Life is always precious, but we often forget this while going about our daily activities. Hearing an entire community of people cheer and clap just because we 'survivors' are still alive was a unique and meaningful reminder life's importance."

Celebrating the lives of people who have survived cancer is an important part of the relay. The survivors make the first lap to inspire the teams who will be on the track for the next 18 hours raising money for the American Cancer Society. After the first lap, people who have survived cancer will be invited to a reception. Anyone interested in joining the survivor lap are invited to register at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the track.

This year's guest speaker will be Enumclaw mayor, and cancer survivor, John Wise.

Three teams have also dedicated hours to loved ones who recently lost their fight with cancer.

From 7:30 to 8:30 Friday night, family and friends will walk in the memory of White River High graduate Chris Hahto. Hahto, a 1995 graduate and state wrestling champion, lost his battle in January.

The family of Fred Arsanto will walk the track from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in memory of the family patriarch. During that time they will play a CD with his favorite music and memories.

The luminary ceremony begins at 10 p.m.

Saturday morning starts off from 8:30 to 9:30 with a dedication to longtime Buckley Kiwanis and chamber member Linda Haller who also recently lost her battle with cancer.

"This community has been touched by cancer so much," said Lori Wells, who is event co-chair with Rosa Villa. "I think we're going to see people we didn't even know were out there."

Already, organizers have raised more than $7,000 toward their goal of $35,000, some of that from sponsors Rainier Natural Health, Mt. Rainier National Bank, Buckley Chamber of Commerce, Business Examiner and White River School District.

Last year, in its inaugural effort, the relay raised close to $25,000.

So far 18 teams are entered and most of those, Wells said, have not started to turn in their funds. A spaghetti dinner in May netted $2,000.

Wells anticipates last year's big fund raisers, like Auburn High School's DECA class and White River High School's Honor Society, to do well again.

Auburn DECA was the top individual team last year, bringing in $5,571. White River Honor Society earned more than $2,000.

Auburn's DECA team, which uses the relay as a class project each year, is motivated this spring by the cancer death of former White River High teacher Diane Burton, whose husband is their DECA leader.

For more information, contact Villa at 253-334-5647, Wells at 360-829-0100 or Michelle Van Hoff, 253-272-5767

Enumclaw will host its fourth annual Relay For Life June 18 and 19 in downtown Enumclaw. Team slots are still available. For more information contact Marcia Hopkins at Enumclaw City Hall, 360-802-6282.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierhearld.com

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