South Shore’s Relay for Life meets fundraising goal |

South Shore’s Relay for Life meets fundraising goal

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Denese Dunt sits with Sami.

Cancer survivors like Denese Dunt of Stateline have much to celebrate these days.

The South Shore’s first Relay for Life has met its goal of $64,000 and then some. Funds have been raised totaling more than $68,000, going into next weekend’s mainstay event for the American Cancer Society at Kahle Community Park. Team members walk the track through the night, a concept launched in May 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., by colorectal cancer surgeon, Dr. Gordon Klatt. He raised $27,000 from friends.

Dunt, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer 19 years ago, couldn’t be more pleased with Lake Tahoe’s first fund. Five members of her family have been diagnosed with a variety of cancerous diseases, so she’d like to do something about it.

“With something to see in my family, it leads me to believe there are reasons and a purpose to do the relay,” she said. Dunt helped form the “Aloha Ohana” team – which in Hawaiian stands for “hello” to new survivor friends, “goodbye” to those who fought the struggle and love of the family that supports them.

Dunt’s 5-year-old son, Garrett, and 13-year-old daughter, Abrie, will join her on the track during the 16-hour period designed for teams to raise money and awareness to the fight.

Although Dunt has no reported occurrences of her disease following her seven-hour thyroid removal surgery 19 years ago, she takes nothing for granted. This includes the delicate relationships she has with family.

She recalled Sunday how Abrie overheard her mother talk about her cancer to a friend on the phone.

“She said to me: ‘Mom, I never knew you had cancer.’ That’s when we had the little talk,” she said.

Dunt doesn’t believe the cancer will come back, but the possibility always exists.

The Dunts are even bringing the family dog – 7-month-old Sami.

“I learned in recovery from cancer that I need to watch my health. She’s my reason for getting out there and walking. One thing people can do to make sure their health is good is to watch their diet and exercise. She’s a form of therapy to me,” she said, adding the well-documented benefit of a loving pet to a patient’s mental outlook and physical status.

Man’s and woman’s best friend will get a special hour on the track beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.

One of 4,100 sites, the Tahoe relay has come out of the starting gate strong – with its 40 sponsors and 40 teams.

Coming off the heels of testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s Tahoe appearance at the American Century Championship last weekend, cancer awareness forms a bond in the community that’s hard to describe, survivors say.

“You see it in the survivors. You just know they’ve been there. They may not have exactly the same thing, but there’s been a hard decision somewhere in their lives – one that affects most families,” Dunt said.

Breast cancer survivor and relay organizer Judi Sparrow agreed.

“It’s all about families because cancer affects everyone in the family,” she said. That’s why the caregivers’ lap closely follows the survivors’ lap in the opening ceremonies beginning 6 p.m. Saturday.

Sparrow, who met Armstrong last week upon his Tahoe appearance, said the outpouring of support for those suffering from the disease has been “incredible” from the community in raising $68,000 and counting.

“In the beginning, I thought $64,000 was totally out of sight, but the money just kept coming in,” she said. Sparrow led about 30 volunteers in a toast Thursday night for the accomplishment. Those in the room agreed to $80,000 as next year’s goal for money raised for Cancer Society research and services.

American Cancer Society Relay for Life

July 22 and 23; 5 p.m. to 9 a.m.

6 p.m. – Opening ceremonies

7 p.m. – Relay’s Mutt Strutt

Dusk – Luminaries

Where: Kahle Community Park, 236 Kingsbury Grade

All are welcome

$10 registration fee/donation

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