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The 2024 Relay for Life of Thurston County’s “Wild for a Cure” is more than a celebratory theme, it’s a tangible show of support for local cancer survivors and their caregivers. And on June 22-23, 2024, community members can dress in their favorite leopard spots or zebra stripes and gather at North Thurston High School to celebrate progress, remember loved ones lost, and raise funds for cancer research and services from the American Cancer Society.

You do not have to dress up, or even attend, to support Relay of Life. Leading up to the Relay, the Thurston County community has demonstrated great enthusiasm for the cause this year, with a strong coalition of local sponsors, registration of 79 fundraising teams, and over $325,000 raised as of this writing. Karen Waddington, communications lead for Relay for Life of Thurston County, says the Relay is especially resonant, because many members of the community have been through a cancer journey or have helped a loved one through a cancer journey.

“Cancer touches everybody, and it touches every community, every walk of life,” explains Waddington.

A devoted team of over 100 volunteers donate time to help set up the Relay for Life of Thurston County and ensure the event runs smoothly. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay for Life of Thurston County

The Relay for Life of Thurston County Invites Participants to ‘Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back’

According to Waddington, there are three tiers that outline each annual Relay for Life event: celebrate, remember and fight back. Woven through these tiers, is the community rallying around a common purpose. This includes those directly affected by cancer, like survivors, family members or friends, as well as anyone who is committed to seeing an end to cancer.

The Relay may be an opportunity to commemorate an individual’s cancer experience, whether they are currently receiving treatment, or were diagnosed and treated many years ago. And for many survivors, Relay for Life is a milestone event, highlighting the efforts and triumphs along the journey with the people they hold close.

“The moment you hear those words, ‘you have cancer,’ you become a survivor,” says Waddington. “And whether it is surviving this moment, this hour, this day, or this decade, you know, then you are a survivor.”

The Relay may also be an opportunity to express gratitude to the many family, friends and caregivers who have shown support for a cancer survivor, whether through transportation to medical appointments, delivering meals, companionship or a listening ear. Waddington says that on average, nine caregivers are needed to support a cancer survivor throughout their treatment, and each member of the team plays an important role. Caregivers are invited to the Relay, with many festivities throughout the day that recognize their crucial love, time and commitment.

“If you did anything to help a survivor, then yes, absolutely, this is for you,” says Waddington.

The Relay can be a meaningful event for cancer survivors, family members or friends, as well as anyone who is committed to seeing an end to cancer. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay for Life of Thurston County

The Relay for Life of Thurston County Is Packed With Family-Friendly Fun at North Thurston High School

On June 22, the Relay’s jam-packed schedule of festivities will officially kickoff during the Opening Ceremony, and the subsequent Survivor and Caregiver Lap. Attendees may enjoy an afternoon on the track through special theme laps like the“Hometown Heroes Lap or the PINK LAP Breast Cancer Awareness Lap, as well as on the grounds through music, food trucks, field games, car show, pie eating contest and square dancing.

Participants can catch some shade and chat with fellow supporters of the Relay under the sponsor and fundraising team tents. The Relay’s iconic Big Purple Chair will also tower high, with plenty of opportunities to take a seat and pose for a photo, perfect for the young and young at heart.

Through the “Wild for a Cure,” theme, participants can earn their stripes through namesake events, like the Wild for a Cure Lap and Costume Contest. In anticipation for the group-oriented moments like the Parade of Teams, Waddington also predicts that many of the teams and individual Relay participants will have fun planning their attire, whether it incorporates this year’s wild theme, or other festive motif.

During events like the Bell Ringing Ceremony, cancer survivors and Relay participants can commemorate the long road traveled while battling cancer. As the evening continues, the Luminaria Ceremony and Bagpiper-Led Lap are more serene moments to reflect, and recall loved ones lost to cancer. And throughout the day, Waddington says individual Relay attendees may also decide to walk a lap around the track in memory of a loved one.

In the evening hours, both the Luminaria Ceremony and Bagpiper-Led Lap are more serene moments to reflect, and recall loved ones lost to cancer. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay for Life of Thurston County

The final component of the Relay is to advance the cause through fundraising, education, visibility and support. It requires a village to carry out the Relay for Life of Thurston County each year. And in the months leading up to the Relay, fundraising teams are hard at work, planning and hosting a range of community fundraisers, from yard sales to painting parties. Local businesses and organizations join as Relay sponsors. And a devoted team of over 100 volunteers donate time to help set up the Relay and ensure the festivities run smoothly.

Waddington says volunteers from all facets of the community donate their time to the relay, including local sports teams, clubs, churches and businesses, and it is that dedication from the community that makes all the difference toward the fight against cancer.

“There’s heart, and there’s drive and there’s dedication in this community,” says Waddington.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Relay for Life of Thurston County, visit the Relay for Life of Thurston County website.

Attendees may enjoy an afternoon on the track through special events like the Hometown Heroes Lap or the PINK LAP Breast Cancer Awareness Lap, as well as on the grounds through music, field games and other activities. Photo courtesy: Karen Waddington/Relay for Life of Thurston County

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