Relay for Life raises $61,000 |

Relay for Life raises $61,000

Amanda Holt MillerWestern Garfield County Staff

This weekend, the Rifle Relay for Life surpassed its fund-raising goal by more than $20,000, reaching an eight-year record high. The goal was $40,000 and they raised $61,000, said Cami Taylor, the Relay chair.Katie Jones, a 12-year-old cancer survivor from Rifle, raised $1,100 for the event to benefit American Cancer Society. Katie fought a long but successful battle against a brain tumor six years ago. She, along with almost 200 other walkers, solicited pledges from community members, friends and family for her time on the track.Nineteen teams participated in Relay for Life this year, two more than last year. Each team had about 10 members, one of which had to be walking on the track at all times. Each time the team completed a lap, a member would collect a pink or purple paper clip to help them keep track of how many they’d done.Katie was a member of the Relay organizational committee for the second year in a row. She wandered from campsite to campsite urging folks to show their spirit in exchange for spirit bucks, purple $50 bills teams could redeem for prizes.”I’ll give you $150 if you do a kick line,” Katie told a group of Basalt Middle School girls, whose team was sponsored by Valley View Hospital. The girls eagerly agreed to the challenge and Katie rewarded them with $350 spirit bucks.The 18-hour event, which started at 6 p.m. Friday and finished before noon Saturday, was chock full of fun activities. A pajama and pizza party at midnight inspired weary walkers to push on. Breakfast started at 6:30 a.m.”There’s only five hours between pizza and breakfast,” said 13-year-old Emma Kading, a member of the Valley View team. She’d just calculated the time. “That’s not much.”The team of girls was one of two teams sponsored by Valley View Hospital. Lauren Emenaker, 13, called about 30 girls when her father, Mike Emenaker, asked if she’d like to participate. There were 11 girls who could make it for the event.Lauren and her father, who works in the IT department at Valley View, have taken several years of cartooning classes together. They drew barnyard animals and scenery on cardboard to decorate their campsite, since the Relay had a Western theme this year.The team earned $2,200 for the American Cancer Society.”We would just walk in someplace and talk to people, tell them what we were doing,” Lauren said. “People just opened their hearts at that point.”The girls were excited and danced to the DJ’s music. They earned several spirit bucks earlier in the night when they did the Macarena, a line dance. They planned to stay up all night, assisted by sugar, fruit, salty snacks and fun.”A lot of people know people who’ve died of cancer or who’ve had cancer,” Kading said. “It’s great to be able to help people and do something fun.”The most moving part of the event for many people, especially Stacy Jones, Katie’s mother, was the luminaria ceremony. More than 500 white paper bags lined the track. Each one had a name written on it in black marker. When the sun went down, Relay committee members set out to light candles in each of the bags.At about 10 p.m. Friday, everyone gathered close to the DJ booth, the lights around the track went out and the crowd grew silent as someone read all 500 names. The names were those of cancer victims and cancer survivors.”There’s so many,” Stacy said. “It sent shivers through me when they read the names. They’d say someone and (I would think), ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ A lot of the candles were still burning this morning.”Stacy and Katie don’t plan on being part of the organizational committee next year, but they will have a team of their own.”It’s so important,” Stacy said.

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