Relay for Life kicks off Friday to support cancer patients, research | SteamboatToday.com

Relay for Life kicks off Friday to support cancer patients, research

Liz Forster

A hoard of purple shirts took the opening lap of the 2014 Steamboat Springs Relay for Life

— After raising $32,699 for cancer research last year, Relay for Life of Steamboat Springs returns Friday to the Steamboat Springs High School. The annual event, which begins at 6 p.m., raises money for the American Cancer Society and supports those in the community who are fighting or have fought cancer.

So far, there are nine teams and 44 participants registered for Relay for Life of Steamboat, and they have raised $10,265. Last year, 19 teams and 102 individuals participated.

Registration will remain open through Friday’s event, which features several key changes.

This year, the event will end at midnight rather than the following morning in response to community feedback. In addition, prizes earned from winning certain games during themed laps will add to the total number of laps a team can tally toward their fundraising goal.

For example, during the poker-themed laps, participants will receive a poker card for each lap completed. After five laps, whoever has the highest hand not only receives a prize but also can add laps to his or her team's total score —the more laps, the more money sponsors will contribute.

Steamboat resident Anne Barounos’ team has been involved with Relay for Life since its inaugural year, and Barounos has found that even in a health-conscious community like Steamboat cancer is still prevalent.

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"We generally live a healthy lifestyle here, but it was a bit of a wake-up call for me when, during the survivor lap at my first Relay for Life in Steamboat, I saw 15 or 20 people I knew walking," Barounos said. "It struck me how many people I knew well but never knew had cancer. Relay for Life brings to light how pervasive cancer is, here of all places, and that we should be supportive of its efforts."

For Relay for Life 2015, Barounos will not serve as advocacy chair, promoting the idea of cancer fundraising across the community, but rather as the leader of the OTH Zumba Folks Relay For Life team in support of Steamboat Radio’s Shannon Lukens. The team will dance its way across the track, shedding light on the relationship they have developed with Lukens through Zumba classes at the Old Town Hot Springs.

Doctors discovered Lukens’ tumor during a routine colonoscopy last month. Although the doctors caught the tumor early and will be able to treat it successfully, undergoing chemotherapy is not an easy feat.

For Lukens, though, the hardships of treatment are eased, even in the slightest of ways, by the support of the Steamboat community through outreach efforts like Relay for Life and through the Yampa Valley Medical Association's Cancer Care, which make sure families dealing with cancer are supported emotionally and financially.

"I support Relay for Life to pay it forward to the people that are supporting me and to contribute to finding a cure," Lukens said. "If I can help people become aware of their health and cancer — that it is curable if you catch these things early — then my support for Relay for Life is worthwhile."

To reach Liz Forster, call 970-871-4374, email lforster@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LizMForster