Relay For Life walkers stay up to fight cancer |

Relay For Life walkers stay up to fight cancer

Trina OrtegaCarbondale correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Dave Kanzer of Glenwood Springs takes a lap with other walkers during the opening ceremonies at the 2006 Relay, where participants raise funds in the fight against cancer. (Trina Ortega photo)

CARBONDALE Early Saturday morning, it will be dark and quiet in Carbondale, except for hundreds of candle-lit luminarias and the gentle footsteps of walkers in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of the Roaring Fork Valley. About 400 participants will take turns walking or running relay-style through the night at the old Roaring Fork High School track in honor of loved ones who have been diagnosed with cancer, and in memory of those who have died from cancer.A fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, the Relay For Life begins at 6:30 p.m. today and ends at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. It includes a free catered reception for survivors, live music and a luminaria ceremony. There are also games, food and fun for the walkers, who camp out for the night at the track. Aside from raising funds that go to the Cancer Society’s Nobel Peace Prize-level research and programs for patients and families, the relay is a fun event, according to event chairwoman Julia Spencer of Basalt.”People think, ‘Whoa, this is a lot of work,’ but they get there and realize it is fun. You can make such a difference in such a small amount of time. It’s addictive,” said Spencer, who has been walking in Relay For Life events for 12 years.

“Relay actually brings you together with your family and friends,” she said in comparison to 5K-type runs and walks she’s participated in, which are “very personal.””When my mom died, it renewed my passion to get involved. That’s when I stepped it up,” she said. Spencer and the participants have indeed ramped it up, raising more than $77,000 as of Aug. 7. “Our goal on paper is $75,000, but I’m very hopeful that we’ll break $100,000,” Spencer said. The relay has gained momentum over the past two years with marked gains in 2006 in both fundraising (approximately $42,000), volunteers and walkers, compared to 2005.Now, 2007 is shaping up to be another record-breaking year.Spencer receives help from a planning committee of about 20 volunteers and, like any volunteer-powered event, “There’s never enough,” she said. But she was excited to note that 36 walkers had indicated they want to volunteer next year.

With more participants involved this year, Spencer said the overnight event will be fun, in addition to inspiring. “Hopefully more people will stay. All the fun stuff’s in the middle of the night. Our relay is known for the limo race,” she said of an on-the-spot cardboard box car derby around the track. A special part of the night honors survivors with a free catered reception and a luminaria ceremony with live music by acoustic guitarist and singer Yvette Maceachen. To launch the event, Snowmass Village Mayor Doug Mercatoris will provide opening comments. Spencer welcomes the community to come to the high school to experience the event. There is no cost. Spencer also said it’s not too late to get involved as a walker, a team or a survivor.

“Some people think it’s too late to start a team. It’s never too late,” she said. “It’s more about people just showing up as a community.”Anyone wanting to purchase a luminaria may also do so in advance by calling Libby Walker at 927-5030, or at the high school track prior to the lighting ceremony at 9 p.m. today. Luminaria candles are available for a donation of $5. All funds raised through luminaria sales support the programs and services of the American Cancer Society. The ACS aims to lower the risks by investing more than $100 million annually in research. ACS-funded researchers have played a key role in many major breakthroughs, including cures for childhood leukemia; the structure of DNA and technology; the Pap test, which has resulted in a 70 percent decrease in deaths from cervical cancer; the first successful bone marrow transplant; first-line drug therapy for colon cancer; and the PSA test for screening of prostate cancer, according to the ACS website. The American Cancer Society also offers support services, such as Road to Recovery and Look Good Feel Better. For more information about the Relay For Life of the Roaring Fork Valley, contact Julia Spencer at 948-6350 or visit For more assistance with cancer questions, call the confidential ACS support line at (800) ACS-2345 or go online at