This weekend’s Relay for Life supports cancer research and services

The motto for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is “Cancer doesn’t sleep, so neither will we.” This weekend more than 200 Islanders will do just that when they camp out at Vashon High School and raise money to find an end to the disease that takes the lives of millions each year.

Last summer Vahon’s first Relay for Life was a huge success, with participants raising more than $37,000 for the American Cancer Society and earning the event the society’s Pacesetter Award. This year Karen Bargelt, the fundraiser’s publicity chair, said the Relay is headed for a repeat.

As of Monday, 22 teams had already raised over $31,000 in private donations. Bergelt said the official goal is $39,000, but she has hopes that they can break $40,000 by the end of the relay.

Bargelt called the relay itself an “all-night party with a purpose.” As teams camp out around the school’s football field on Saturday night and team members take turns walking laps, Islanders can join participants in getting massages, eating great food and partaking in a host of other activities that will continue to raise money for the cause.

Bargelt said all funds raised for the American Cancer Society directly support activities such as patient services on Vashon and cancer research in the state. “Even if it all goes in one pot, ... what we raise we more than get back for local services in this area,” she said.

Islanders who have survived any form of cancer are invited to come out for a special survivors’ lap and reception. The most solemn moment of the night will come during the Luminaria Ceremony, when the track is lined with lights made from bags decorated with the names and photos of loved ones who have been lost to cancer. “When you see how many people, even in our community, have had cancer, when they’re lined up and lit up, it’s pretty stunning,” Bargelt said.

Islander Rita Olson participated in the Relay for Life last year as part of the Curves team to prove that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma hadn’t beat her. This year she’s doing it again, this time as a captain of Bergman’s Babes, with the hope fewer people have to go through what she did.

“I do it because I know what it’s like to sit in a chemotherapy room,” she said. “Whether you’ve had cancer or not, you’ve been touched by it somehow. … If that’s not the case it’s just a matter of time.”

Olson, whose team has a friendly competition going with two other teams to see which one can raise $10,000 first, also knows that Vashon’s support helps the American Cancer Society continue to provide valuable services to cancer patients and their caregivers.

“It’s wonderful to see that were already exceeding last year,” she said. “I hope we can get more people involved between now and [this] Friday.”

The Relay For Life will be held at Vashon High School from 6 p.m. Friday, July 30, to noon Saturday, July 31. Registration and check-in begin at 4 p.m. Friday. The survivors’ and caregivers’ laps will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, and will be followed by a short reception. The Luminaria Ceremony will be at 10 p.m. Friday.

To donate, register to participate or get more information, visit or contact Karen Bergelt at 463-8506 or Online donations will be accepted through August.

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