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Relay for Life is on track

Relay for Life organizers Mary Clipsham (left) and Terri Segadelli. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Relay for Life organizers Mary Clipsham (left) and Terri Segadelli.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Terri Segadelli and Mary Clipsham have the big cancer benefit

off and walking.

Picture dawn on a summer Sunday.

Hundreds of paper bags line the Bainbridge High School track, each one decorated and lit from within by a candle, each one placed in honor or in memory of someone touched by cancer. In the bleachers, an arrangement of similarly illuminated bags spell the word “Hope.”

“If you can imagine,” Mary Clipsham said, “walking around that track, and the sunrise, and the glow from the bags...it was very moving.”

The American Cancer Society’s overnight Relay for Life represents a grand-scale effort by 4,800 communities nationwide to raise funds for cancer research, education, advocacy and services.

The luminaria that lined the BHS track last year were part of the fund-raising, to be sure. But they also served as a symbolic reminder to everyone there.

“They’re not just bags,” Terri Segadelli said. “They’re actually representing someone’s life.”

Clipsham and Segadelli, this year’s co-chairs, point out that private, grass-roots efforts like the relay constitute a critical portion of cancer research funding, and that without them, cancer research would surely not have come as far as it has.

“There could be so many researchers out there, and one of them has the cure,” Clipsham said. “If it weren’t for the ACS and other organizations, the funding might not be there.”

Although other communities in Kitsap County have staged Relay events for a number of years, this is only Bainbridge Island’s second year of participation.

Yet the two organizers say the reprise, to begin the afternoon of July 28, has already exceeded their expectations. Participating teams have raised over $39,000 toward the overall goal of $80,000.

The relay formula is straightforward. During the event, teams who began forming this past winter – or in some cases, right after last year’s event – will converge at the field and take turns walking or running laps around it

Each team will try to keep at least one member on the track at all times throughout Saturday afternoon, long into the nighttime hours, and through to Sunday morning until it’s time for a pancake breakfast followed by closing ceremonies at 9:30 a.m.

Some are planning novelty laps with hula hoops, dancing the limbo, pajama-clad or double-dutching by the Bainbridge Rope Skippers. Teams often pull their zaniest stunts during the wee hours, to keep the energy up.

Segadelli and Clipsham say the non-competitive relay isn’t just about chugging around the track. Just as each luminaria represents a loved one, a constantly moving presence during the night symbolizes the idea that cancer never sleeps.

The event is intended to create an environment of camaraderie, closeness and sharing among community members whom cancer has touched.

“It really gives cancer survivors the chance to meet other survivors,” Clipsham said.

Both Clipsham and Segadelli are cancer survivors themselves. When Clipsham underwent treatment for ovarian cancer two years ago, she relied on her husband and close friends for support but didn’t join a support group.

So she loves seeing Relay participants sit down at a meal together to share not just their stories but practical information about treatment, nutrition and other nuts-and-bolts components of living with cancer.

“That’s the goal, to educate people,” Segadelli said.

More groups and individual participants are welcome; pay $10 at registration, get a T-shirt, take a few turns around the track, purchase a luminaria and visit the team tents.

Segadelli and Clipsham anticipate that the themed team tents will generate a significant percent of the events’ overall proceeds.

For a fee, attendees can stop in for a massage, get their faces painted, or purchase crafts, jewelry and glow-in-the-dark items among other goods and services.

There will also be a raffle and a silent auction for high-ticket items as well as various refreshment vendors to fuel the effort.

“I look back at last year, and I’m so excited for this year,” Clipsham said. “(We’re) bringing awareness of cancer to the community in a way that’s fun.”

Twenty-nine teams and more than 300 participants have signed on, up from 17 teams and 175 individuals last year. Clipsham attributes the increase in participation to the formation of organized committees to helm specific components of the overall event. The approach increased efficiency and broadened the effort’s reach.

Online donations have also contributed to early returns and have enabled organizers to better track participation numbers and donation levels.

“Other than the people we registered, we really didn’t know how many people would actually show,” Clipsham said of last year’s relay, adding that up until the day of the event, T-shirt sales were their only true gauge for the number of committed participants.

“The day of, we were just amazed,” she said.

“It’s funny to re-live this and realize, ‘oh, it’s coming, and there’ll be double the number of people!’” Segadelli said.

When new teams sign on to the Relay for Life, they usually a number of practical questions about the process. Clipsham says her main recommendation is to remember a tent, so that team members can get some sleep between relay laps.

“And bring cash,” Segadelli said.

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Don’t delay

The 2007 Bainbridge Island Relay for Life gets under way at 4 p.m. July 28 at the Bainbridge High School track, with Mayor Darlene Kordonowy speaking at the opening ceremonies. Registration begins at 3:30. To make an advance donation, learn about teams and get general information prior to the event, visit www.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=206099.

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