Why they walk — teens prepare for Relay for Life

May 17, 2011

By Laura Geggel

In 2000, Michael Cecil’s mother learned she had a carcinoma so rare that it had only been diagnosed in 100 people.

Now a sophomore at Issaquah High School, Cecil continues to support his mother — a cancer survivor — by walking in Relay for Life of Issaquah. He started walking in the annual event the year after her diagnosis, making this year his 10th relay.

“It’s a fun way to get a bunch of people together for a great cause,” Cecil said.

From 2008 until now, he has registered as a team captain. Like many young people his age, Cecil will stay awake for 20 hours May 21-22, walking around the Skyline High School track and thinking about life and how to beat cancer through fundraising.

Bill Zheng, a Skyline student, is leading a relay team of his own. His grandmother lost an eight-year battle with cancer, and he walks in honor of her memory.

“When my grandmother died, I was still really young. I didn’t really understand the full spectrum of everything that had just happened,” he wrote in an email. “As the years have passed, I finally have learned to accept it and I want to fight back so that more people don’t have to go through the same thing.”

In 2010, more than 800 people at the relay raised $257,000 for the American Cancer Society — a giant jump from the $4,000 participants raised in 2000, when the Issaquah relay began.

As of May 13, Issaquah’s Relay for Life had 804 participants from 78 teams who had raised more than $105,800. This year, their goal is to raise $252,000.

The team captains know they can raise more money for the American Cancer Society, a nonprofit that gives money to cancer research and supplies support services to cancer patients. Some of its programs include providing wigs to chemotherapy patients; providing college scholarships to young cancer patients so they don’t have to choose between treatment costs and an education; and paying for lodging for a cancer patient who needs treatment far away from home.

“Relay for Life makes me feel like I’m part of something that could change lives,” Liberty High School junior Kaily Davies said.

People can still register or simply show up for the relay. Participants can sign up at the website, www.issaquahrelayforlife.org, or come to the relay to pay their respects and hang out with friends.

Once nighttime falls, hundreds of luminaria will light the Skyline track. Each luminaria, a decorated paper bag illuminated with a tea light candle burning inside, honors a cancer survivor or anyone who has lost the fight against the disease.

Alyna Merali, a junior at the International School in Bellevue, is walking for her mother and her aunt. In 2006, her mother learned she had cancer. Luckily, her cancer was detected early, and a lumpectomy a few weeks later saved her life, Merali said.

Her aunt was not as fortunate, and Merali remembers her, especially when she walks around the Skyline field.

“She fought long and hard, undergoing several treatments of chemotherapy and radiation,” Merali wrote in an email. “She lost her hair during the process, yet I had never seen her looking so stunning as when she donned her new wig. Her strength and courage radiated to all those near and dear to her, and today we remember and celebrate all she gave to our family and to the world.”

If you go

Relay for Life of Issaquah

  • Noon May 21 to 8 a.m. May 22
  • Skyline High School
  • 1122 228th Ave. S.E., Sammamish

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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