The relay is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, which organizes similar events in towns nationwide. Participants gather pledges of financial support in exchange for walking, running, jogging or dancing for 24 consecutive hours.
This is the fifth year Kodiak has hosted a Relay For Life.
On Friday evening, event chairwoman Angela McFarland shouted gleefully to the gathered crowd, “I’d like to thank Kodiak — We’ve done it again!” as hundreds cheered and began to walk.
On Saturday evening, a tired McFarland was more subdued but still excited as she declared the event had raised $47,927.
“That is a grand total of $250,000 that Kodiak has raised in the last five years. That’s pretty impressive,” she said.
And it’s not quite done yet.
The organization’s fiscal year runs through the end of August, and a charity auction is scheduled for Aug. 20 at the Kodiak Harbor Convention Center.
The relay began under brilliant blue skies, and the good weather held throughout the event, with no rain and barely any cloud cover.
Thia Falcone walked Friday evening with her 4-year-old grandson Markus “Boo” Barnette.
“I lost two and am celebrating two who won … all this year,” she explained.
Falcone was typical of those who came in organized groups, or relay teams.
“I’ve been back and forth,” she said. “I did the pizza run, did the battery run.”
Participants were kept moving by music provided by volunteer Marc Ignacio, who provided the speakers and DJ equipment through his business.
He yielded the microphone at the start of the event for headline Alaskan musician Ken Peltier, who also walked in the event’s ceremonial opening lap that features only cancer survivors.
Rock and pop music, peppered with occasional dance acts and special events, contributed to a festive atmosphere for most of the relay.
But at midnight, things took a somber turn as the relay hosted a ceremony dedicated to the memory of those who have died of cancer. Walkers abandoned the track to gather at midfield, where organizers had set up a tent filled with luminaries, paper bags filled with candles.
Relay volunteers read the names of the deceased, passing a microphone from person to person as each choked up. Other volunteers lit the candles in the luminaries as each name was read, lighting the bags’ sides and revealing names and farewell wishes that had been hidden by the dark of midnight.
“I had two (family friends) pass away and two more diagnosed just this month alone,” luminaria chairwoman Shirlie Morin said. “People have said this is the most meaningful part. … It’s one of the things everyone remembers.”
Dawn revealed a thinner crowd of walkers, as group members grabbed a few hours of sleep in the tents that lined the track. Longer hours brought more people, who again filled the painted lanes.
“It’s a great realization for people to be here,” walker Catherine Le said. “Kodiak’s really supportive of these things.”
At 10 a.m. Saturday, participants lined quarters around the track in an attempt to complete an entire loop.
“Best guess right now is we’re right around $1,700 (in donations) just for the quarter mile,” Jerry Clark said.
Noon saw volunteers give up their hair for the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which collects hair in a process similar to the better-known Locks of Love campaign.
As the relay wound down, the Kodiak Samoan dance troupe and Kodiak High school dance team encouraged walkers to keep moving by putting on shows in support.
Most people said this is the third or fourth time they’d participated in the relay, and they promised to return again next year. A few, though, were newcomers.
“My dad passed away last year,” Joseph Christman said, “and I was just out with my girlfriend. … I’ve never come to one of these before, but I’ll be back.”
Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.