WINNING THE RACE: Relay for Life of Columbia County celebrates cancer survivors, caretakers and memories of loved ones
The American Cancer Association's Relay for Life of Columbia County honored cancer survivors and remembered those lost to the disease with a "We do not like cancer here or there, we do not like cancer anywhere," theme on Saturday, July 29, at Doc Ackerson Stadium in St. Helens, and did they ever.
In fact, one survivor of seven years at last felt like standing before the adoring crowd, where before she was reserved.
Inspiration prevails at such relays with comforting, inspirational activities, 2017 event lead Sharon Shiel said.
"Every day you keep going, you're winning against that disease," Shiel said. "Relay for Life isn't just around the county or Oregon or the country: Volunteers are fighting cancer worldwide. Our current total raised so far throughout this year is $37,004.87, with money still coming in. Over $5,000 was raised [the weekend of July 29]."
Fran Clason, a McBride Elementary School teacher who retired two years ago and persists in her third battle with cancer, served as grand marshal of the 12-hour event in which survivors, caretakers, friends, family and well-wishers circled the St. Helens High School track in Hawaiian, Dr. Seuss and '80s-themed laps.
"We were very lucky to have Miss Fran Clason as our grand marshal," Shiel said.
The St. Helens High School leadership students dedicated a fundraiser to Clason and made t-shirts with "Think Pink" on the front and "Team Clason" on the back.
The team proudly spreads the word via social media to wear their shirts on Clason's treatment days.
"We were honored to have her with us, and she was helping the whole time," Shiel said. "Everyone in the school district has rallied around her."
A 10 p.m. luminaria ceremony invited guests to honor and remember loved ones who have fought and continue to fight the disease by illuminating bags along the track with names and photos of loved ones in a time of quiet reflection.