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Festive Relay for Life has serious message

You could say it was the best of times born out of the worst of times.

This year’s Relay for Life brought together people of all ages for a festive night with a serious mission: to raise funds for the fight against cancer.

Staged inside the gym at Boulder City High School, the relay began at 6 p.m. Friday and ended at 6 a.m. Saturday.

It didn’t matter if the participants had worked or gone to school all day. Being tired wasn’t an option. Cancer never sleeps and neither would they for 12 hours.

Fortunately, there was plenty to keep everyone alert and active.

If walking around the track wasn’t enough to keep everyone busy, there were activities, games, food to eat and entertainment galore.

Participating teams set up camp, so to speak, around the gym. They created booths where walkers could rest between their turns around the track or sell food and other items to fellow participants to help boost their total donation to the cancer society.

Each booth or area was decorated with a theme. There was team Stay Strong’s Willy Wonka candy factory, which offered a variety of sweet treats; the ice cold Frozenators, which offered snowman kits made with marshmallows, Kool-Aid and Rice Krispies treat snowballs; tropical Living Aloha, which had hundreds of colorful leis along with its soup; and Diane’s Darling Divas, which had a ’50s themed kissing booth (with candy kisses), beaded necklaces, hot dogs and chili.

Naturally, several of the booths sold cancer-related items, including mugs imprinted with “Cancer Sucks” and an assortment of pink things for breast cancer awareness.

One of the most original things I spotted was Stay Strong’s Bra Pong game. Players were invited to bounce pingpong balls into the cups of bras of various sizes and colors attached to two large boards.

Despite the fun and festive atmosphere, there was a purpose behind everything that was being done. And it was heartfelt.

“I’m happy I’m able to support such a great thing,” said Valaree Anderson of Boulder City, a member of Team Na Koa, which means the warriors in Hawaiian.

Making her third appearance at the relay, Anderson said she walks because she has a cousin who died from breast cancer, a grandmother who survived stomach cancer, and a friend and Zumba instructor who survived breast cancer.

Before the walking began in earnest, the choir from King Elementary School sang several songs, including one entitled “Clouds.” The song was written by 18-year-old Zach Sobiech of Stillwater, Minn., who lost his own battle against cancer in May 2013. Proceeds from sales of his album featuring the song go in a fund to find a cure for osteosarcoma.

Charlene Hampton, Relay co-chairman, officially began the event and praised everyone for their work. “This is Boulder City at its finest hour.”

She introduced local resident Larry Hogan. Involved with the relay for seven years, Hogan has cancer of the esophagus, colon and liver along with spotting on his lungs.

He told those assembled what it is like to fight cancer. “It’s ugly. It’s never easy. I consider myself a big tough guy but sometimes the pain is unbearable.”

But no matter how many tests he goes through or hours spent in cold miserable hallways, Hogan said “the fight against this terrible disease” must go on.

Then he led the survivors’ lap.

They walked — some with the help of walker or powered scooter, some with hair and some without. Making the lap wasn’t easy, but each step they took was another victory against their disease.

It was an emotional experience.

Although I didn’t stay the entire night, I was touched by the dedication of those who were there.

Perhaps Hampton summed up the event best.

“We all want to make a difference in the fight against cancer so one day no one will ever have to hear the words ‘You’ve got cancer.’ ”

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