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Giving more hope: Survivors, allies start 2014 Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life

North Bend mom Erin Mitchell, with her daughter Maddy and friend Kylie Warren, offers memorials of light—handmade paper lanterns, or luminaria— at the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life kickoff party on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Mitchell, who lost her husband to gastric cancer five years ago, discovered Relay, and a community of “people that get it.”  - Photo by Mary Miller
North Bend mom Erin Mitchell, with her daughter Maddy and friend Kylie Warren, offers memorials of light—handmade paper lanterns, or luminaria— at the Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life kickoff party on Wednesday, Feb. 12. Mitchell, who lost her husband to gastric cancer five years ago, discovered Relay, and a community of “people that get it.”
— image credit: Photo by Mary Miller

Every story is a little different, but everyone inside this theater has got one.

There’s Nell Engel of North Bend, a walker on Team Dy-No-Mites, who does Relay to make sure her two cute grandsons, Sawyer and Walker, can one day live without fear of cancer. Or Joe Dockery, behind the video camera a few rows back, who swapped stories of his video buddy, the late Bill Blakely, with me.

There’s the teen dancer, Staci Sutton, who took the stage in a costume made in part from one of her grandpa’s old shirts, so that she’d always have part of him near, even though cancer took him.

There’s North Bend resident Erin Mitchell, promoting the paper memorial lanterns by the stage with her daughter, Maddy. Mitchell lost her husband to gastric cancer almost five years ago.

Her mother introduced her to Relay for Life. It took about a year for Mitchell to be ready for it. And, when she took part, she discovered a community—“people that get it,” Mitchell said. “It’s been huge for me and my daughter.”

Now in its 13th Valley year, Relay for Life is a 24-hour combination of party, memorial and marathon that links cancer survivors, caregivers, patients and friends in an emotional fundraising event.

The dozens who attended the kickoff rally February 12 for Snoqualmie Valley Relay for Life had personal reasons for being here. This summer, they will celebrate, remember and fight back.

Organizers are rounding up teams and also eager to involve cancer survivors, who will be honored with a special dinner and a luncheon during Relay.

“We’ve set some high goals,” said emcee Bev Jorgensen, “and you can see the community coming together.” Dozens of local businesses have painted their shops purple or hung ribbons in support. Supporters include both the mayors of North Bend and Snoqualmie. North Bend’s Ken Hearing lost his mom and dad to cancer, then his older sister.

“These days, that could have been treated. She could have been a survivor today,” Hearing said.

“Every time we do one of these relays, we provide more hope, more money toward research, so that more people can survive,” he added. “Let’s give more hope to more people.”

When he was 8 years old, Snoqualmie mayor Matt Larson lost a beloved aunt to cancer.

Larson’s wife honored the legacy of her father by changing careers and working for the Fred Hutchenson Cancer Research Center.

He recognized Relay’s “29 years of work, $4.5 billion raised, that is an absolutely powerful difference between when my aunt died and what happens today. These efforts bring hope that your kids and grandchildren won’t suffer the same losses.”

The mayor proclaimed Feb. 12 at Relay for Life Day in Snoqualmie.

Valley native Kim Berkebile took the stage at North Bend Theatre to accept an honor from Jorgenson.

When she as diagnosed a few years ago with cancer, Berkebile’s life changed. But she began to fight back, finding the little positives and vowing not to give up.

Berkebile shared honors with her caregivers, whose “selflessness and compassion spurs us on.”

Two weeks ago, doctors found two new nodules of cancer in her lungs. “So, I enter another phase of this battle,” she told the audience. “All endings are also beginnings, we just don’t know it at the time. This is my new beginning.”

• Relay for Life of Snoqualmie Valley is July 12 and 13 at North Bend’s Torguson Park.  Learn more at snovalleyrelay.org.

Kathy Boyd of North Bend meets brothers Sawyer, 5, and Walker Engel, 2, in front of her relay booth at North Bend Theatre. The boys are here to support their grandma, Nell Engel of North Bend, who walks with the Dy-No-Mites relay team.

Emcee Bev Jorgensen embraces cancer survivor Kim Berkebile, the kickoff keynote speaker.


Bev Jorgenson, Cindy Walker and Cathy Boyd take the stage

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson addresses the Relay gathering.

IGNITE instructor Brittany Mains introduces dancer Staci Sutton, who did a dance in honor of her grandpa. Part of her costume is made of one of his shirts.

Sutton performs her routine.

Staci Sutton looks up a photo of her grandfather.

 

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