Organizers of Newberg's annual Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society opted for a Dr. Seuss theme this year to celebrate their 15th anniversary as a standalone event, adopting the mantra "A Hope is a Hope, No Matter How Small."
With temperatures soaring into the upper 90s when things kicked off Saturday afternoon, however, heat was the word that ruled the day.
And while that may have reduced the number of laps walked around the track at Newberg High School, it wasn't enough to suppress the spirits of the those in attendance, who cumulatively raised more than $41,000 and counting.
"There were a lot of challenges to overcome this year, but I think people had a fabulous time and the community has raised a lot of money for the American Cancer Society," American Cancer Society relay specialist Rachel Sarasohn said. "We're super grateful for them and all the volunteers and how passionate it is."
Participation, both in terms of the number of teams and individuals participating and those taking on leadership roles, was down from previous events, but longtime organizer and cancer survivor Marty Brown said the event has always been a bit cyclical in that respect and expects it to bounce back.
Brown not only raised the most money, $2,746, of any individual, but her eponymous team, Marty's Party, also led the way with $10,388 as of Monday. Those totals will continue to rise a bit and people are still encouraged to make donations online, as contributions to this year's total can be made until the end of August.
Brown also praised Newberg High School students like Israel Pintor and Sarah Hughes for not only raising funds and participating in teams, but for helping out in a variety of way and getting things done on the day of the event.
"The high school group we have is pretty energetic and enthusiastic," Brown said. "They keep everybody going."
Pintor, who just graduated from NHS and will attend Chemeketa Community College's fire protection program, became involved as a sophomore after being encouraged by Brown, who is a neighbor of his. As a junior, he served as a co-captain of the Kids Fighting Cancer (KFC) team and was a visible presence throughout the day Saturday.
"Some people stay and some people go, but the ones who stay, you can tell, they really grit it out," Pintor said. "It's really fun and inspiring to see them, how passionate they are about this and that's what we should try to do as the younger generation for Relay."
A strong breeze covered the track for most of Saturday and the trouble it caused in terms of blowing over tents and canopies was well worth the cooling effect. Thankfully for all involved, temperatures dropped after sundown and were much cooler Sunday when the event concluded.
Event organizers provided free water and Gatorade, while shave ice was a popular remedy thanks to the Rolling Table food cart. But, for the most part, people dealt with the discomfort because they were working toward something bigger than themselves.
"Between 99 and 104 there's not that big of a difference," Sarasohn said. "It's just stinkin' hot at that point."