Students will run laps to support cancer research

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego Junior High parent Carrie May-Varas is helping make the first Mini Relay for Life in the Lake Oswego School District come to fruition.Lake Oswego Junior High School students are stretching their legs to support cancer research this Friday.

The school’s staff and 900 students hope to collect $17,000 during the first Mini Relay for Life at the school — and the school district, said Rhonda Cohen, Lake Oswego Relay for Life co-chairwoman. The mini event is the same as a typical Relay for Life, a benefit for the American Cancer Society during which people walk or jog around a track for 24 hours. Except, the junior high’s event will be during the day only.

“Hopefully, this is the start of something,” Cohen said.

Cohen recruited Lake Oswego Junior High parent Carrie May-Varas and Lake Oswego High senior Bailey Goodell to organize the Mini Relay for Life.

“The biggest part about this is to try to raise awareness about cancer,” said Goodell, 18.

The school’s 300 sixth-graders will start things off in the morning, walking laps around the Lake Oswego High School track and participating in activities such as tug-of-war and limbo. Seventh- and eighth-graders will arrive in the afternoon, finishing out the day. While they’re not at the event, sixth- and seventh-graders will participate in the yearly community service day, weeding the school garden and yanking out ivy at Springbrook Park. Eighth-graders will be doing career exploration instead of community service.

“I think at this age they’re just starting to realize that there is a bigger world outside of themselves, and they can really feel passionate about some of the causes they end up helping,” said Ann Gerson, Lake Oswego Junior High principal.

Spirit week’s now in full swing at the school and includes silly activities such as wearing hats during Take the Lid Off Cancer Day. Teachers promised to embarrass themselves in a variety of ways to encourage students to donate. If students collectively bring in $9,000, teacher Chris Beeler will shave or dye his hair. Gerson committed to dyeing her hair if students hit their final goal.

Teachers have said they are open to any hair dye color, May-Varas said.

Parents of Lake Oswego Junior High students can visit, dropping off a donation, taking in students’ humanitarian efforts, circling the track themselves or checking out the information booth. There are 70 adult volunteers, but more parent volunteers are welcome, May-Varas said.

For $5, parents can purchase a luminary with a personalized message to someone who died of cancer, and it will light up the night during the local Relay for Life in July.

Goodell and May-Varas are members of the Lake Oswego Relay for Life committee who were inspired to help after losing loved ones. Goodell’s best friend died of a malignant tumor in seventh grade, and May-Varas lost her grandfather, grandmother and father-in-law to throat cancer, a sobering lesson.

“Do I smoke?” May-Varas said. “No. Never.”

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