Wednesday, August 15, 2007
It was hard not to feel the electricity Friday and Saturday at Steamboat Springs High School.
More than 600 people - many of them in purple "Survivor" shirts - participated in the second annual Steamboat Springs Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Teams of residents old and young circled the Gardner Field track throughout the night, periodically taking breaks to grab a few minutes of sleep. A luminaria ceremony lit up the track with more than 2,000 candles, each one recognizing a victim of cancer.
When it was all said and done Saturday morning, participants had raised more than $190,000 to find a cure for a disease that will kill 560,000 Americans this year alone. Last year's inaugural Steamboat event raised just more than $50,000.
The outpouring of community support surprised even Relay for Life co-chairman Luther Bernston, a Steamboat resident and cancer survivor. But it shouldn't.
Routt County residents and businesses continually rise to the occasion when it comes to worthy charitable causes. Of the many things that make living in the Yampa Valley so special, the generosity of its residents stands out. And as was the case last weekend, it takes more than people who are willing to open their pocketbooks. For Relay for Life, it was the volunteer committees that spent dozens of hours during the past year organizing, planning and executing. It was the residents who gave up their Friday evening and Saturday morning to walk with a purpose to honor those whose lives have been forever changed by cancer. It was the businesses who donated goods and services to ensure the event was a success.
Cancer has touched each of us in one way or another. But the scope of the disease's local impact really hit home Friday during the Survivors Lap and ensuing ceremony. Steamboat's Tom Fox, a cancer survivor who was featured in the Steamboat Pilot & Today's summer series highlighting local residents who have overcome the disease, reminded his peers that every six months brings a new advancement in cancer treatment. He urged them to keep faith that those advancements would allow them to live fulfilling lives.
Fox told of his diagnosis and how he shrank into a shell, keeping his secret from friends and co-workers. He now has a different outlook, and he spoke of the fact that men are far less likely than women to join a support group as they battle to beat cancer.
The Relay for Life didn't just raise money for the American Cancer Society. It empowered residents in the fight, a fight we're now a little closer to winning.