The 23rd annual Hawaiian-themed Franklin County Re-’Lei’ For Life is being hailed as a success by its organizers after raising more than $114,000 this year, topping its $110,000 goal.
The Relay, which was held Friday, June 8, at Washington High School’s Jim Scanlan Stadium, was the finale of months of planning and fundraising. It ran from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday, June 9.
Relay co-chair Wendy Wildberger said she was happy to see survivors, caregivers, friends and family participate again this year. She said nearly 250 people attended the Relay, 130 of whom were survivors, roughly the same amount as last year’s Relay.
“I was very pleased with the turnout,” Wildberger said. “We had lots of community support and lots of members of the community who came out and celebrated our survivors.”
A large portion of the funds raised came from the Relay’s annual golf tournament and the Jordan Scheer Relay For Life that is held annually at WHS.
Each year, the Relay features several speakers, including its annually picked Hero of Hope.
This year, Union Mayor Mike Livengood spoke at the event. He talked about his grandfather who died of cancer when he was young and there hadn’t been enough research at that time to do anything about the disease.
“It’s a shame when you lose someone that early in life, you want them to be around,” Livengood said.
He said his father, who years later was diagnosed with lymphoma, kidney and several other cancers, survived thanks to the type of work Relay For Life and the medical field does.
“I’m glad to say he’s 90 years old and he’s still here and it’s because of people like you and the work you’ve done with Relay For Life and medical advancements,” Livengood said.
Hero of Hope
The Hero of Hope is an annual honor given to a cancer survivor or person who has been an exceptional caretaker for someone who has struggled with cancer.
Valerie Broeker, a member of Husky Corporation’s Relay team, was named this year’s Hero of Hope for her work as a caretaker. In her family, cancer has been an enemy for decades.
Broeker said caregiving has always come naturally to her and her family. For her, watching over her many family members who struggled with cancer never felt like a chore.
Her mother and several of her siblings have struggled with cancer. Just recently her sister was diagnosed.
“I struggle with that word caregiver and hero. We were brought up to always take care of those who needed it. Sometimes it’s simple, just listening or saying a prayer with someone,” she said.
Broeker has been a caretaker for most of her life, but only recently got involved with the Pacific Relay For Life, which recently merged into the Franklin County Relay. She said her family’s struggle with the disease is a major reason she got involved.
She has lost two brothers and a sister to cancer, but she said they did what they could and fought so others might have a better chance at surviving cancer.
“My brothers and sister have all fought to the end with trials and studies knowing that it would not help them, but hopefully would help find a cure to this disease,” Broeker said. “They never gave up. They fought all the way to the end.”
She said caregiving can feel helpless sometimes, but it’s an important part of what defeats cancer. She said being part of the fight is paramount to the battle.
“The hardest part is the helplessness you feel. No matter what you say, you can’t take that pain away. So you just love them more, you fight for them and you never give up,” Broeker said. “Relay is one way to fight back.”
She said another huge resource is the American Cancer Society, which receives the proceeds from the Franklin County Relay For Life. The society works to provide for those who need assistance while fighting cancer and research cures.
“We all know that cancer has many tools in its toolbox to take us all down, but the American Cancer Society has given us new tools to eradicate this disease,” said Broeker, who closed her speech by reminding everyone to live each day to its fullest and to keep fighting no matter what.
“Remember, never give up,” Broeker said.
The Relay committee held its wrap-up meeting Monday, June 11. Wildberger said it was great to reach the goal again this year and see the ongoing support from the area.
“Even though Relay has been going on for 23 years, it’s wonderful that we still can go strong in Franklin County,” Wildberger said.