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Relay for Life: time to celebrate, time to remember

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Each year when the community gathers to support Lake County’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life, there are more lives to remember, and more lives to celebrate.

“It’s just a time when you get together with the people that have survived, people you have something in common for support,” said Sandy Colter, a 10-year cancer survivor.

Steve Hines participated in the relay because his granddaughter Caitlynn asked him to walk with her.

“How could you say no to that?” said Hines, who was at the event with his wife and “great caregiver,” Wanda.

Survivors and their caregivers lapped the Joe Mc- Donald Fitness Center gym Friday at Salish Kootenai College.

“Seeing (the survivors) walking around with their supporters — I tell you, it brings a tear to your eye,” Nancy Williams said. The 19- year cancer survivor looked around the gym before commenting, “It just seems to hit lots of people.”

Because participation was beginning to dwindle in recent years, event organizers mixed it up and created a kids’ carnival, rather than just a walk.

“It turned out better than expected,” relay organizer Caitlyn Vassar said.

Bree Dunham, American Cancer Society representative from Missoula, agreed.

“It seemed to go really well today,” Dunham said. “It’s the first event I’ve seen that really changed it up.”

Besides raising money for cancer research, the relay gives families a chance to go through the journey together, she said.

“For loved ones, it’s a way to heal and an opportunity to take a stand and fight back against cancer,” Dunham said, “and to honor the survivor’s fight.”

After the luminaria were lit but before nearly 400 names were read as Amazing Grace played softly in the background, Keaven Stinger, 9, knelt beside his grandmother’s brightly decorated bag. Fortunately for Jessie Stinger and her family, she is a survivor.

“She goes to church,” Stinger said of his grandmother. “She also likes classic movies. Every Wednesday night I stay with her. We go to church, and then we watch a new movie.”

The emotional luminaria ceremony honors survivors, brings support to those affected by cancer, and remembers those lost to cancer.

Lake County Relay for Life has raised $27,000 for the American Cancer Society, according to Vassar. Donations will be accepted until the end of August.

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