Steamboat Springs Seemingly every walker at Relay For Life on Friday and Saturday had a very personal story.
They were walking in honor of someone currently battling cancer, in memory of someone they had lost or in support of friends and family whose lives have been touched by the disease.
"I'm walking for my Grandpa Vern, because he died two years ago from cancer," said Emily Puffett, 12. Late Friday night, Puffett barely had left the track at Steamboat Springs High School since her arrival at Relay For Life, despite the fact that her designated shift still was hours away.
Walkers circled the crowded track Friday evening as thunder and lightning opened up the skies overhead. Although plastic light-sabers and glow necklaces were the choice accessories of team members taking the nighttime shifts, walkers early in the relay circled the track donning brightly colored ponchos and raingear, umbrellas in hand.
Others, unwilling to let the wet weather slow them down, donned pirate regalia and fairy wings, starting impromptu team leap-frogs around the track at Steamboat Springs High School, only to be rewarded with a double rainbow when the skies began to clear.
"I'm glad the rain didn't spoil it," said Lynn Abbott of Steamboat, poised to rendezvous with a relief walker from her team after her stint on the track.
Rain did derail some teams' campsite decorating plans, including the relay team from Steamboat Resorts, which had been eager to repeat its campsite win from last year. Ultimately, however, the event was about the cause, team captain Stacy Schulz said.
"We have dads, coworkers : people with a number of losses in their lives. We're walking for them," Schulz said, rallying teammates Mandy Leonhardt and Nicole Hickman to get back on the track Friday night.
"We're walking for the cure," Schulz said.
At dusk, the stadium went dark, lighted by luminarias circling the entire track. Walkers studied the bags, decorated with photos and bright marker-scrawled messages - each in honor, support or memoriam of those who have been touched by cancer - as each name was read over the loudspeaker.
Forty teams with more than 500 people, including more than 200 cancer survivors, were registered participants in Relay For Life. Hundreds of others stopped by to show their support and take at least a few laps Friday.
In addition to registered team members, dozens of dogs made the trek, as well, as did babies and toddlers, first in strollers, then napping in wagons as the night progressed.
Prior to the event, organizers were optimistic they would at least near their $200,000 fundraising goal. Late Friday night, fundraising had reached the $180,000 mark as contributions still were being counted.
Relay For Life, the signature annual fundraiser of the American Cancer Society, has 4,800 events annually in the United States and is growing internationally.