Rally the Valley brings out cancer fighters | PostIndependent.com

Rally the Valley brings out cancer fighters

Before the Calaway Young Cancer Center came to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, residents of the region had to travel as far as Denver to get the treatment they needed.

Now, a facility that not only provides standard cancer treatment, but also complementary services including massage, acupuncture, counseling and more, is just a short drive away for anyone in the valley.

Rally the Valley from Post Independent on Vimeo.

The third annual Rally the Valley started and ended Saturday in Sayre Park. The fundraiser benefiting the cancer center gives participants the opportunity to take part in a 24.5-mile bike ride, a 4-mile walk through downtown Glenwood Springs or a 1.5-mile family walk. When participants finished, they were invited to celebrate in Sayre Park with food, live music, bouncing castles and a free lunch at 11:30 a.m.

Last year, Rally the Valley raised more than $300,000 for the Rally Fund, which specifically backs complementary therapies focused on healing the whole person, not just getting rid of the cancer.

This year, some people participated because they have recovered from cancer. Others because they’ve lost someone close to them to the disease. And some participated not because of a personal connection to cancer, but because they understand the value of the cancer center for their neighbors. Here are some of their stories.

This was the first year Glenwood Springs resident Linda Maggiore participated in Rally the Valley. Although she volunteers with a variety of local organizations, her recent back surgery made her realize how important Valley View Hospital is to the region, so she decided to do the 1.5-mile walk.

She also has good reason to support the cancer center in particular.

“My grandmother, my guiding light in my life, had colon cancer,” Maggiore said. “We got her healthy from that, and then it metastasized to the pancreas and she had pancreatic cancer. She died at my house; I took care of her until she died.

“We are so blessed in this valley with the cancer center. It’s amazing what we have here.”

For New Castle resident Michele Johnson, who walked in Rally the Valley for the second time, having a facility so close to home, and one that offers such comprehensive healing services, is something very important on a personal level.

“I had a nephew who had cancer, and he didn’t recover,” Johnson said. “He had leukemia. He traveled to Denver for his treatment because they didn’t have the facilities here in town. But now it’s right here, and it clearly benefits a lot of people already. It’s very beneficial to all of our local area.

“The complementary care for cancer patients is so important, so I just felt strongly for the cause.”

Brian Tagler of Glenwood Springs survived cancer himself after being diagnosed with melanoma about 20 years ago.

“It was removed in a day operation,” Tagler said. “And I’m healthy.”

Tagler has walked in Rally the Valley for all three years both because of his personal experience and because the cancer center is a vital part of the community.

“It’s such a worthy cause, and the weather is so beautiful,” he said. “They really do a top-notch event with bouncing castles and the food court. And we’re friends with the Calaways and the Youngs, and we’re just amazed at their generosity. I just love to see that we have this facility here.”

Kristin Clifford of Glenwood Springs participated in the first rally. She remembers that it rained two years ago, but she had a good time doing it, so she decided to come back again this year.

“We think it’s important to support the cancer center,” Clifford said.

Although she has never had cancer herself, Clifford has known several people who have. One instance that sticks out in her mind was when she had a young friend with breast cancer.

“When I was 35 and pregnant with my son, a friend of mine was also 35 and found out she had breast cancer,” she said. “She had to go to Grand Junction every day for radiation. But she recovered.”

Tashka Alvey, of Glenwood Springs, brought her husband and two children for the 1.5-mile walk for her first Rally the Valley. Although she doesn’t know anyone being treated at the cancer center, she is no stranger to the disease.

“We have known people with cancer in the past,” she said. “We’ve had friends with breast cancer. We’ve had grandparents with lung cancer, grandparents with prostate cancer, so just a little bit of everything. Some were able to battle through it, and others weren’t. Currently we’re fortunate to be cancer-free in our world.”

Alvey said she came out this year because the event was family-friendly and for a worthy cause.

“It’s great to live in a community that comes together to have something like this center available in a smaller community.”

In addition to food, drinks, music and bouncing castles, the celebration in Sayre Park featured information booths about the cancer center and other facilities in the valley. But one tent in particular stood out from the rest.

In it hung rows of black and white portraits of cancer survivors with a quote accompanying each. The booth was manned by Carbondale resident and cancer survivor Sue Drinker, who has brought her project to Rally the Valley for all three years.

“This is a project that I started in 2006, about two months after I finished doing chemotherapy for melanoma,” she said of the hanging photos. “I felt like I wanted to celebrate the fact that I was still on the planet, and I thought maybe other people who were survivors might want to do the same. So I began taking portraits of survivors and putting together a quote with their image. And we’re now in 2014, and I’ve done over 200 portraits.”

Drinker had to commute to Denver frequently when she was going through chemotherapy. Now, she’s happy to know fellow residents of the valley won’t be put through that added stress.

“I remember the old cancer center, before the new pavilion, and it was basically one hall and three rooms,” she said. “It was pretty small, very intimate. But unfortunately cancer is becoming a bigger and bigger factor. Now, it’s a wonderful space. For the horrible thing you have to go through, at least you can do it in a nice place.”

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