Relay for Life event returns to Issaquah

May 28, 2013

By Peter Clark

After years away from its home base, Relay for Life will return to the high school where it began.

On June 7 and 8, the 15th annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society will bring out teams of people who have collected money from the community for an all-night endurance event. It will involve a 20-hour team walk around the school’s track, coupled with entertainment and additional events to raise money. Last year, nearly 900 people took part. Organizers are expecting even more this year.

“We’re excited to be back at Issaquah High School,” Event Chairwoman Gwen Schweitzer said. “We’ve been four years at Skyline High School and we are excited about the new gym at Issaquah.”

With Skyline currently facing remodeling, she said organizers hope to rotate between the schools.

The relay will kick off at 6 p.m. June 7 with a survivor’s victory lap. While the main attraction goes through the night, it will be coupled with many opportunities for entertainment and fundraising.

“We have a great activities committee from Skyline High School,” Schweitzer said. “They have a great lineup.”

Between a silent auction, food from the California Pizza Kitchen, crafts and games, she said organizers are looking to make it an exceptional time for all those who have donated their time and money.

For those who cannot make the time commitment, Schweitzer said there were many other opportunities to get involved.

A central feature of the large event is the decorating and donating of luminaria. After dark, personalized bags honoring the memory of or honoring someone affected by cancer is lit and placed along the track in the Luminaria Ceremony.

“We will take donations from our website at,” Schweitzer said about those wishing to contribute. “Or, you can purchase a luminaria to decorate and have it out.”

At the moment, Relay for Life appears to be more of a success than 2012.

“We have 90 teams registered for our goal of $300,000,” Schweitzer said. “Right now, we are at $119,000, and we had 84 teams last year.”

It is also a banner year for the relay, as it has been chosen by the American Cancer Society to help in its third cancer prevention study.

City Shared Services Manager Darcey Strand, who has coordinated Issaquah’s relay team for the past 10 years, is serving as the direct volunteer to assist in gathering volunteers for the study through the event.

“Issaquah is assigned to get 148 volunteers,” she said. “They can only register at the Relay for Life.”

She flew to the society’s headquarters in Minnesota for training as a volunteer. She said she was impressed with how much it took to learn all of the details involved with volunteering through the study and has brought that to the Relay for Life in an attempt to solicit volunteers.

The only stipulations to take part in the study are to be between 30 and 65 years old and have no history of cancer. Though Strand said she does not have half the number she needs to turn out for the event, she is confident she will find those willing to enlist.

“The opportunity came up and they were looking for a chair for this,” Strand said. “I am committed because I have had too many phone calls of people saying they’ve been diagnosed with cancer.”

Even if people are unavailable for the study, she said the relay is an excellent chance to show support for those affected by cancer.

“It’s an amazing event, seeing all the young people donating their time,” Strand said. “It’s just really a special night.”

For Schweitzer, it is a combination of personal experience and inspiration from the community that has kept her dedicated to Issaquah’s Relay for Life.

“I first started relaying in Eastern Washington nine years ago while my grandma recovered from terminal brain cancer,” she said. “I decided I wanted to be more involved. Also, these students spending their free time raising money instead of going shopping or playing sports is inspirational. It’s really amazing and keeps me coming back.”


If you go

15th annual Relay for Life

  • 6 p.m. June 7 through
  • 2 p.m. June 8
  • Issaquah High School
  • 700 Second Ave. S.E.
  • Learn more at


Participate in cancer study

The American Cancer Society is launching a wide-sweeping cancer prevention study.

The society hopes to enlist 300,000 people by the end of the year. Volunteers will be tracked for 20 years to evaluate changes in lifestyle, environmental and genetic factors that could lead to an increased risk of cancer or assist in cancer prevention.

Previous studies have had monumental effects on laws and lifestyles. Through the American Cancer Society’s efforts, links between tobacco use and nutrition have caused large shifts in understanding about cancer risks and prevention.

To enroll in the study, men and women should be ages 30 to 65, have no personal history of cancer and be willing to make a long-term commitment. Questionnaires will be provided every three years or so, asking about lifestyles and health.

Volunteers will have to enlist at the Relay for Life event with trained staff members from the American Cancer Society.

Contact Darcey Strand at or 206-755-6216 for more information or to enroll.


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