Relay for Life raises thousands to fight cancer

Saturday, June 10, 2017 - 12:09
  • Nina Perino and Chris Steiner lead a jazzercise class during the Relay for Life at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center May 20, 2017. The annual event draws dozens of participants and raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Laura Witham performs the national anthem to kick off the Relay for Life at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center May 20, 2017. The annual event draws dozens of participants and raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Colten, Avery and Danielle Mullins prepare to participate in the 2017 Relay for Life at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center May 20, 2017. The annual event draws dozens of participants and raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Team members walk laps during the Relay for Life at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center May 20, 2017. The annual event draws dozens of participants and raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Team members walk laps during the Relay for Life at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center May 20, 2017. The annual event draws dozens of participants and raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Thavun Srisaneha of Body Renew Alaska helps lead a round of tug-o-war during the Relay for Life at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center May 20, 2017. The annual event draws dozens of participants and raises thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)

On May 20, dozens of Alaskans packed the track at the Harry J. McDonald Memorial Center to take on a common foe.

“Cancer’s all around us, and it shouldn’t be,” said Annette Vrolyk, organizer of the Chugiak-Eagle River Relay for Life.

The annual event, one of 10 held around the state, was a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and research, patient care and education programs. In Chugiak-Eagle River, Vrolyk said, the event has been going strong for more than a decade. It’s been held at Gruening Middle School, Mirror Lake Middle School and – for the past several years – at the Mac Center.

This year’s Relay featured 17 registered teams and 64 registered participants, Vrolyk said. By Saturday night, they’d raised $7,694 toward their goal of $20,000.

Inside the Mac Center as the event began, the mood was festive. Pop music played over the speakers. Balloons and banners decorated the walls. Participants wore superhero costumes and colorful team t-shirts. The evening schedule included Jazzercize, a tug-o-war competition, a costume contest and laps dedicated to doctors, parents and everyone in between.

After a flag ceremony led by local Boy Scouts, the Relay kicked off with a “survivor’s lap.” Wearing purple t-shirts, a small group of men and women made their way around the track to cheers from the crowd.

About half a dozen Relay participants had faced personal battles with cancer, but everyone had felt its impact. Vrolyk said she became involved with the Relay after her young niece fell ill. Other Relay participants said they walked on behalf of lost family members, friends, coworkers and friends-of-friends.

Colten Gage Mullins attended the relay with his wife and son, all members of the 477th Cancer Fighters team from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. With some 26 members — most wearing matching blue shirts and red capes — the team was one of the largest on the track Saturday.

“We like to try to give back as much as we can,” Mullins said.

The Relay ran past midnight, ending before dawn Sunday morning. By Sunday afternoon, it had raised a little more than $11,000.

Teams still have a few months to meet the $20,000 goal: Fundraising for the 2017 Relay for Life runs through August 31, Vrolyk said. To learn more about the local group, find them on Facebook at Relay for Life of Chugiak-Eagle River.

Contact reporter Kirsten Swann at [email protected]

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