Hundreds walk, thousands raised for cancer |

Hundreds walk, thousands raised for cancer

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Gail Weibel, left, lights luminary bags at dusk on Saturday as Relay for Life walkers, from left, Isabel Concha-Foley, Lauren Andrew, Kelly McKay and Abrie Parrish pass by.

STATELINE – The South Shore’s Relay for Life wrapped up Sunday after hosting more than 800 people, leaving a multitude of poignant moments and almost doubling its $64,000 goal. That amount was blown away and then some.

At last count, the American Cancer Society’s all-night walking ceremony to raise money for advocacy, research and education to fight the pervasive disease had brought in $112,000 from Lake Tahoe and beyond. And that amount could go up.

South Lake Tahoe’s Bernice Attinger alone raised $3,005, taking the lead as the top fund raiser for the 12-member Girlfriends team, which raised $14,731.

“I cried every time I opened a letter. It was amazing,” she said.

More than 40 teams – from the GI Joes to Spa Divas – lined the walking track selling goods and keeping spirits high through Saturday night.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Shane Phillips, the Cancer Society’s community relations manager, announced before the cheering crowd gathered at Kahle Community Park. On Sunday, he said “only one other relay in the entire Great West division has been that successful (in the first year).” The division encompasses 13 Western states including Nevada.

But it was obvious early on with the Cancer Society’s signature event: It’s not just about the money.

“I’m shocked by the outpouring of love. I appreciate the people who came from other towns because of someone they love,” said Judi Sparrow, relay chairwoman and breast cancer survivor, who also celebrated her and husband Jerry’s wedding anniversary. She got choked up thinking about it. And there was plenty of emotion to go around.

The Douglas County park off Kingsbury Grade was the setting for a local celebration filled with love, hugs, support, families, friends and memories. And dogs – known for their cornerstone on unconditional love – got a piece of the action. From a Bernese mountain dog to Chihuahua, several purple-bandana-clad canines showed up on the track that night for their hour of recognition.

When the relay’s Mutt Strut began, some dog walkers came out of the neighborhoods and negotiated the steep hill to hit the track. With the sniffing and tail-wagging, the event became even more social.

“It was high time Tahoe had a relay. We’re here for the survivors,” Maggie Gordon said, walking her 5-month-old terrier Cactus with her husband Bill. It became obvious with the participation from the pets. The event had Tahoe written all over it.

The most emotional time of the night came at dusk during the luminary ceremony – which included a section dedicated to pets.

“Cancer shows no preference – young or old, husbands and wives. Tonight, we honor the ones we love. For tomorrow shines a cancer-free world. We’re putting the voices and faces on this disease,” volunteer Shawn Rowles said to kick off the ceremony. Then, hundreds of people quietly walked the track to view candle-lit paper bags with personal messages written in honor of those who lost the struggle to cancer and others who continue fighting.

For many observers, the tears flowed as they read the messages. Some were simple with a bag, “Miss My Dad,” sitting next to another declaring “Luv Ya Mom.” Others wrote poems. And many provided the hope and promise of a day without cancer, like the luminary: “Never Give Up Dad.”

Julie Kiner, an avid fishing enthusiast, attached a photograph of a large fish to pay tribute to her brother David among other relatives and loved ones with the dreaded disease.

It’s difficult to find someone not touched by cancer, which affects millions of people around the globe.

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