Photo by Scott Franz
Relay For Life team captain Karen Schulman, left, and volunteer Ann Stein pack Relay For Life T-shirts into gift bags for the team captains at a meeting at Bud Werner Memorial Library on Wednesday. Relay For Life kicks off Friday.
If you go
What: Fifth annual Steamboat Springs Relay For Life
When: Event begins at 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Steamboat Springs High School track on East Maple Street
Cost: The event is free and open to the public. Donations are accepted, and luminarias will be available for sale to remember those lost to cancer and celebrate those fighting the disease.
Steamboat Springs Together, the 16 members of Luther Berntson’s Relay For Life team have celebrated 1,006 birthdays.
And Berntson, a 78-year-old prostate cancer survivor, is hoping to celebrate many more on behalf of all people who have suffered from some form of the “dreadful disease.”
“We’re raising awareness of cancer for more early diagnoses,” Berntson said about the annual event. “Also, for people that have had cancer, to give them hope.”
The theme of the fifth annual Relay For Life is “A world with more birthdays,” Berntson said. But, it takes a whole community to reach that goal by raising funds for the American Cancer Society.
The 37 registered teams have raised about $78,000, which is less than half the fundraising goal of $200,000, event Co-Chairwoman Susan McIntosh said.
The event raised $169,000 in 2009 and $209,000 in 2008.
McIntosh said although donations are down from previous years, she anticipates more funds to come in when the event begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the Steamboat Springs High School track.
“About 40 or 50 percent of the money does come in on the night of the event,” she said. “Typically the event is made up of teams who fund raise for us, but businesses can still sponsor us. We’re always open to general donations, and the night of the event there will be luminarias for sale that can be purchased in memory of someone who died or someone who’s fighting cancer.”
The luminarias will be lit during a ceremony at 9:30 p.m., during which the names of those remembered with each light will be read.
“The luminaria service is a very meaningful reflective time to remember those who are lost,” said McIntosh, who lost her father to cancer when she was 19. “It’s very moving.”
Not only will those lost to cancer be remembered, but the lives of those who have survived the disease will be celebrated.
Berntson will be one of about 200 cancer survivors who will kick off the event with a survivor lap around the track at about 6:20 p.m.
McIntosh said the survivor lap is a moving reminder of those who have fought cancer.
“The survivor lap is very, very emotional,” she said. “It’s a celebration — you see those survivors walk that lap and they’re beating it. They’re beating it for right now.”
Throughout the night, each team is required to have one person walking the track at all times to reinforce the notion that cancer never sleeps.
The night will be filled with games and entertainment including music and movies, and McIntosh said the lag in fundraising will not dampen the spirits of the 370 participants.
“We’re very confident that we’ll have a successful event,” she said.
Berntson said donations could have slowed for many reasons, including other cancer fundraisers occurring around the same time and the economic recession.
Also, some people would rather give to an event where the money stays in the community, but Berntson maintains that cancer research trickles back down to people like him in the form of new treatments and diagnostics.
“That’s true,” he said about the money leaving Steamboat Springs to go to the American Cancer Society. “But there’s help from the Relay For Life for people that need it here. If all the money stayed here, I probably wouldn’t be here.”