Evening of Hope raises money for cancer research after switch from long walkathon to single evening event

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - The Evening of Hope event raises money for the American Cancer Society and will be held Aug. 16. Six years ago, a biopsy confirmed John Holley's worst fears — he had contracted prostate cancer. To make matters worse, the cancer had spread to his bladder.

Holley underwent successful surgery to remove the cancer but the experience induced considerable anxiety and sleepless nights, weakened him and required a prolonged recovery.

But one silver lining arose from the experience — it led him to Relay for Life. And through the event, which morphed into the Evening of Hope two years ago, he has formed deeper connections with strangers and friends.

"I ran into a couple people I actually knew as friends and wasn't aware they had cancer. One had prostate cancer and he was extremely helpful telling me about the disease," Holley said. "The network works."

The Evening of Hope raises money for the American Cancer Society, cancer research and services for cancer survivors. It is hosted by Relay for Life Wilsonville and will take place 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 at Town Center Park.

"Number one, it's an uplifting event, a celebration for life especially for those who have cancer and are dealing with it daily," Holley said. "It's a way of building awareness for the cancer program in the United States and throughout the world. It's a way of raising money to fight this terrible disease."

The evening will include a luminaria ceremony to honor cancer survivors, a parade, food, music and arts and crafts. Money is raised via sponsorships, team fundraisers at the event or prior to the event and donations.

Participants can register as fundraising teams or as individuals online at Teams can reserve spots in one of about 40 canopies while individuals are advised to bring blankets for sitting. Attendees can register at the day of the event or attend without registering.

"Cancer touches everyone's life. There aren't many (people) that don't have a relative or friend who hasn't been impacted by this disease," Relay for Life Chairman Pat Wolfram said. "It's (the event) a tangible way to say 'I care.'"

The luminaria event, which will occur at 9 p.m., is a ceremony that features illuminated decorated bags with the names of those afflicted with cancer on display complemented by the tune of a bagpipe.

"It's quite a moving ceremony to see all the bags out flickering inside and circling the park," Holley said.

The event was morphed from an all-night run and walk-a-thon to the current format two years ago. Wolfram

said attendance boosted from 120 to 400 from 2016 to 2017 and he would love to see 1,000 people show up this year. He

would also like to match the $40,000 the event raised in 2017.

Wolfram said the organizers' increased social media presence could help attract more attendees. The event chairman is also hosting an accompanying poker tournament fundraiser July 28.

"They're (cancer survivors) special to us and we want the town to show up in a big way," Wolfram said. "Once you experience it and feel the love and the community gathering for a common cause ... you come back."

Holley recently learned that his prostate cancer returned. At this year's Evening of Hope, he'd like to see a large crowd join him in the fight to eradicate the disease.

"I'd like to see as many people show up as possible to fight the disease and to honor people who have passed away," he said.

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