Community members step up to fight cancer

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CENTRALIA – Every year the Centralia community rallies together to support a common cause of fighting cancer.

This year, however, local community members are taking charge of the Relay for Life event. In the past, Centralia High School led the relay.

Event management lead Amy Arp said bringing the relay to the city square will help show that it is not solely a high school event.

“They thought it was a football game or you know a school activity so by moving it to the square, it’s going to be able to bring awareness to the event,” she said. “We’ll bring it downtown, have the streets closed off so as people are driving up then they’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ and hopefully we’ll get more public with that.”

Relay for Life is the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Staff partner Kathryn McDaniel said one of the biggest misnomers of the event is that it is a race. Instead, it is a day devoted to periodic walking.

“We relay in that we walk continually during that time period to walk with our cancer survivors who go through that journey that does not end,” she said.

Event management committee member Janey Youse said in the past she thought it was a daylong event.

“I thought everybody walked so I literally walked 12 hours straight because I thought that’s what we were supposed to do,” she said. “It’s really a team event, so as long as we have representation from each team or someone always walking on the track during the night to continue that path and that journey with the survivors.”

Food, drinks, activities and a bounce house for children will be provided. However, the most popular event is the ‘luminaria ceremony.’ At the end of the day, a bag is lit in honor of those who have lost their lives to cancer.

Event co-lead Jonathan Hillis said it is a touching ceremony that reminds him of his late sibling.

“My sister had brain and lung cancer. She was my older sister and I’m the youngest one in the family,” he said. “So for the youngest one to come and take care of the oldest one and have to revamp her whole life from financial statuses and living situations and so on and so forth, it was kind of hard.”

Arp said the luminaria ceremony is her favorite part of the day as well.

“It is very compelling to be walking and it’s dark and you see all the bags lit up with names,” she said. “Hearing the names resonates with you. I think it brings us all together as one.”

Hillis said the day helps the community cope with loss of their loved ones and gives others ideas on how to deal with losing someone to cancer.

McDaniel said, “Everyone that I talk to either has a family member, a close friend, a coworker, somebody at church that has cancer. It is non-discriminatory and so it affects everyone and so it is so very important as a community that we pull together to try to eradicate this disease.

The team has a goal of raising $20,000 to go toward research. For more information on donating or participating in the relay, you can visit www.relayforlife.org.

The Relay for Life will take place on Saturday, August 25 from 2 to 10 p.m. in Centralia’s city square. The day is free and open to the public.

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