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Relay for Life hits new high

In the dim light of the night track walkers become a blur in a long timeexposure. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).
In the dim light of the night track walkers become a blur in a long timeexposure. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).

By Laura Brown

Triplicate Staff Writer

Morning sunlight filtered through the fog-kissed morning as groggy-eyed people draped in blankets walked laps at dawn during the second annual Relay for Life held last Friday and Saturday.

By the end of the 24-hour relay the American Cancer Society had tabulated $142,000 submitted by the 62 Del Norte relay teams.

Im in awe, its so amazing, said Jolene Blankenship, the only full-time staff member at the local American Cancer Society. This would have never happened without the dedication and passion of volunteers.

Blankenship said a team captain has already signed up for next years relay.

In addition to money, Locks for Love collected 20 pounds of hair equaling 1,096 inches from 77 people by 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Our original goal was 120 inches, enough for one prosthesis. We surpassed that immediately, said Shannon vonBiela who cut her waist length hair into a layered above the chin style last week.

This is a really good community effort that promotes health, said Linda Edgar a physical therapist assistant from Del Norte Physical Therapy as she walked briskly in the cool morning. Its an opportunity to commemorate friends and relatives who battle the disease. Edgar lost a good friend to leukemia and her mother is a breast cancer survivor.

Edgar and fellow employee Joao Baptista decided it would be fun to bet on who could make the most laps. The loser has to cook the other a full course dinner, said Edgar. Both of us are dying at this point, said Edgar of the combination walking and running. By eight oclock Saturday morning Edgar had gone 140 laps and took only one half-hour power nap.

I think they had a good turnout for a little community this size. I think theyve done very well, said Dave Dodds, who walked alongside his wife Linda for the Smith River Fire team. We go in half-hour shifts. When you only do a half-hour at a time you keep your stamina up. Were old. We get smart, laughed Dodds.

We had so much fun last year, we had to come back, said Linda Dodds.

Runners raced by on the inside track past groups of people strolling at varying speeds. Conversations between good friends mingled with cheering from tent-city onlookers. The lap counters yelled out numbers of passing relayers as they finished each lap. Along the tracks edge white paper sacks scrawled with names of lost loved ones sat filled with sand and candles.

Its a great way to be part of the community, said Steve and Linda Wheeler, who moved here from Lake County. Were having a great time. There is good fellowship and its a good cause, said Steve Wheeler.

Linda Wheeler found the opening ceremonies moving. To me, it really made an impression to see all the survivors. Youd see young and old people. I dont think people realize how many it touches.

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