Lifestyle

‘Taste of Relay’ kicks off fundraising for the Marysville/Tulalip Relay for Life

TULALIP — Tears and laughter were abundant during the “Taste of Relay” Jan. 15, which marked the kickoff of the fundraising season for the 2011 Marysville/Tulalip Relay for Life.

The Pacific Rim Restaurant and Night Club served as the site for the celebratory event, with dinner served free of charge by Domino’s, Little Caesar’s, Boston’s and Jet City Pizza, and dessert provided by “The Best Little Cake Shop,” but the star attractions of the evening were those whose lives had been touched by cancer.

After Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring pledged the support of his Relay team, the “City Slickers,” which includes former Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, Marysville/Tulalip Relay Sponsorship Chair Todd Olason introduced his young daughter Mila, who had to stand on a chair to see over the podium and deliver her speech to the audience.

“My grandpa died when I was 7,” Mila Olason said. “He had melanoma. My grandma died when my mom was 17. I wish I could meet her. She had colon cancer. I’m named after her.”

Mila Olason asked attendees to join the Relay for Life and raise as much money as they can. To help spread awareness of the Relay among kids her own age, she and her brother Luke will be working with one of their teachers at Grove Elementary to stage a “mini-Relay” in the spring.

“How awesome would it be to have every school in Marysville involved in Relay?” Mila Olason asked. “Pretty awesome, right? See you at Relay.”

Sarah Devereux fought back tears as she recalled the day when her mother, Helen Corbell, was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago.

“It was a day that totally changed our lives, our mother-daughter roles, our work and childcare arrangements, our perspectives, our vocabulary, our relationship,” said Devereux, who told Corbell at the time, “We will get through this. We will fight this. It was ‘we’ from the beginning.”

As her mother’s caregiver, Devereux likened cancer to a full-time job in both their lives. She praised the staff of the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership in Everett and the volunteers of the American Cancer Society’s Resource Room under that same roof. She cited the morale boosts that Corbell has received from the wigs and hats at the Healing Spirit Boutique, as well as the art therapy and breast cancer support groups put on at the Partnership by the ACS. Devereux then recommended the ACS website www.cancer.org to all the “Taste of Relay” attendees, for providing information that she’s found to be reliable and up-to-date.

“Who knew that being a caregiver to a patient with cancer could be so difficult, with so many unknowns, yet so absolutely rewarding,” Devereux said. “The role of a caregiver can be a tough, grueling, emotional, physical hat to wear, but being a caregiver has been the most meaningful role I have had in my 38 years of life.”

After Devereux thanked her husband and three sons for their support, she reported that her mother’s current chemotherapy treatment is working.

“I cannot wait to see my mom walk that first survivor lap at Relay this coming June,” said Devereux, before she and her mother hugged on stage.

Corbell would be called back on stage as part of a group of cancer survivors in attendance, by fellow survivor Leslie Jackson.

“When I first heard the word ‘survivor,’ I thought, ‘Oh, but that’s not me,’” Jackson said. “You’re a cancer survivor from the moment you hear your diagnosis.”

Jackson praised caregivers such as Devereux for “getting us where we are now,” before she and her fellow survivors made a mini-Relay lap around the inside of the dining area.

Raymi Peterson and Michelle Clayton led the crowd in a demonstration of the luminary ceremony, in which lights are dimmed in memory of those stricken by cancer, before the somber tone gave way to a moment of silliness with the “Minute to Win It” contest. Competitors placed Oreo cookies on their faces and raced to move the cookies down their faces and into their mouths by using only their face-muscles. While Nehring lost both his cookies, Roland Cummins finished first.

At the same time, volunteers stood ready at laptop stations and with paperwork to sign up individuals and teams for the summer, while Mistica Wines and Elsom Cellars conducted a wine-tasting fundraiser with proceeds going directly to the Marysville/Tulalip Relay for Life. Nearly 30 teams had signed up for this year’s Relay by the end of the evening, but this still falls short of the Relay organizers’ goal of signing up at least 100 teams.

“I lost my mom to cancer when I was 17, and not a day goes by that I don’t remember her,” said Mo Olason, event chair for this year’s Relay. “Cancer affects everybody, and this is how we fight back. You can do something with your sadness and anger and energy on behalf of those who have had so much taken away from them.”

For more information on the 2011 Marysville/Tulalip Relay for Life, log onto www.relayforlife.org/marysvillewa, e-mail mo.msvlrelay@gmail.com or call 425 508-2379.

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