“I'm healthy. I'm here,” said Montague's Stefanie Linsley as she choked back tears during the opening ceremony of the Siskiyou County Relay for Life Saturday morning.
"I'm healthy. I'm here," said Montague's Stefanie Linsley as she choked back tears during the opening ceremony of the Siskiyou County Relay for Life Saturday morning. A one-year breast cancer survivor, Linsley thanked her family and friends for the support they've shown her since her diagnosis and talked about the ways the American Cancer Society helped her through the experience.
To the upbeat Elton John song "I'm Still Standing," Linsley and dozens of other purple-clad cancer survivors then took the first symbolic lap around the College of the Siskiyous track as people cheered them on from the sidelines.
For exactly 24 hours after that, at least one member of each of the 15 official relay teams had someone walking or running the track, to symbolize that cancer never sleeps.
Once dark fell, hundreds of luminaries, lit from inside with flickering candles, lined the inside of the track, each decorated with the name of a loved one lost to cancer or in honor of those battling the disease.
Many names were repeated often: Joe Blevins. Irma Carpine. Dylan Frick. Paul Kinkade. Rich Toreson. Grandpa. Mom.
As participants walked around the track in silence, they stopped here and there to remember someone lost, while from the bleachers above, luminaries spelled out the word HOPE.
When all was said and done, a total of $38,000 was raised by the 15 teams, said Relay chairperson Jill Letendre. There are still five more weeks of fundraising that will go toward this event, she added.
Included in the total is $2,140.34 raised by the approximately 100 students of Big Springs Elementary, who held a Relay Recess event on their last day of school June 30. Each class from preschool to eighth grade learned about a different type of cancer and ways they can prevent the disease.
"We learned about leukemia," said now-3rd grader Rylee Apodaca. "Other classes learned about pancreatic and lung cancer, skin cancer and things to can do to prevent it, like wearing sunscreen. We planted veggies and made posters."
The school's Relay Recess was the first in Siskiyou County, and organizers said they definitely plan to repeat the event next year.
Team Dylan focused on childhood cancers, specifically Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or simply DIPG, said team captain Cindy Cheffey.
Greenview's Dylan Frick was 10 years old when he passed away last August from DIPG, Cheffey said. The cancer is generally diagnosed in children ages five to nine, and the prognosis is a difficult one.
Cheffey's daughter, Jeni, is planning to do her senior project on fundraising for childhood cancer research. The Weed High School student said Dylan's story really inspired her.
"No one really knew about Dylan's story," said Jeni, "and we were only 30 miles away."
To complete her project, Jeni plans to raise funds and then donate the money to something Dylan would approve of, whether it be to his Pop Warner Yreka Chargers football team or to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which helped Dylan and his family after the diagnosis.
"September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month," Jeni added.
Linsley, who formed the Relay team "The Rack Pack," said she is "as involved as possible" in this year's Relay for Life.
The American Cancer Society helped her in a variety of ways over the past year, including getting her gas cards for traveling to appointments with various specialists, and helping with lodging and food while she was away from home. They also connected her with "Reach to Recovery," a support group where she met women around her own age who are dealing with similar circumstances.
Linsley was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer last April, and underwent both chemotherapy and radiation.
"It made me realize that what I'm going through is okay... I'm not the only one," said Linsley. "I am so grateful."
A total of 80 survivors were registered at the event, and over 175 people were registered as walkers, said Letendre.
"So we had people there all day and all night, and then we also had people coming and going. I'd estimate we had an attendance of over 200."
If you'd like to donate to any of the Siskiyou County relay teams, you can do so online at relayforlife.org/siskiyoucountyca