Relay for Life in starting blocks

Kickoff rally for July anti-cancer event draws 125

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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Website: Vancouver Relay for Life

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About 125 people kicked off Vancouver's 25th annual Relay for Life with a rally Thursday night at St. John Lutheran Church in Hazel Dell.

Even after 25 years of walking around the track at Columbia River High School, the relay's participants are just as enthusiastic as ever.

"It's a party with a cause," said BJ Cline, a relayer on the Pampered Chef team. "The best part about it is seeing what other people give."

Every year during the relay, she cries when the sun goes down and hundreds of luminaria are lit around the high school's track, spelling such words as "hope" and "cure." Each light represents

someone who has died from cancer.

This year, Relay for Life of Vancouver looks to host 115 teams and 425 survivors, and raise $325,000 at its July 20th event.

Since the local relay started in 1988 at Columbia River High School, the numbers have improved. Cancer rates have decreased while survival rates have increased.

The rally's speakers, however, addressed the growing concern that cancer rates may rebound due to the overwhelming number of overweight Americans. Risk for some cancers increases among those carrying excess fat.

Relay for Life of Vancouver encourages its participants to lose a combined total of 2,500 pounds. Leading healthier lives not only helps prevent cancer, but also reduces the chance of reoccurrence among survivors. Many at the rally raised their hands in support, committing to losing some weight for the relay.

Toward the end of the night's rally, each person placed a glowstick in a white bag and raised it to the ceiling, honoring the people they're relaying for. Standing before the rainbow of glowing bags, volunteer Paul Montague said, "You can almost touch the energy. That energy is hope."

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.