Communities pull together for Relay

Polk County Relay for Life

POLK COUNTY-- "It's countdown time," said Monmouth's Rick Bennett, chairman for the 2005 Relay For Life.

In just over two weeks, the American Cancer Society's Polk County 24-hour Relay for Life will have walkers, joggers and runners making their way around the track at Central High School in Independence. The event will be noon to noon, Friday and Saturday, May 20-21.

Featuring more than 24 teams from Dallas, Independence, Monmouth and Polk County, this event is celebrating its fifth year. In keeping with its mission of encouraging teams from throughout Polk County to participate, the local steering committee selected a new site and date for the Relay.

The earlier date will allow youth teams to participate while area schools are still in session.

Bennett said, "The City of Dallas and Dallas High School have set a benchmark of how a relay can be hosted and we give them high praise for all the support they have given over the years to Relay For Life. We look forward to returning to their site as local communities take turns hosting Relay For Life."

This is Bennett's second year serving as event chairman, but his connection to Relay started 4 years ago when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. After completing chemotherapy and reading about the Relay in the Itemizer-Observer, he formed a team consisting of family, friends and co-workers to raise money and walk in the 2001 Relay. Those family members and friends helped and supported him during his long treatment.

As one who has battled cancer and won, Bennett will join nearly 100 fellow cancer survivors in the Survivors Celebration Lap which takes place at 6 p.m., Friday, May 20.

He shares that his is just one of many stories on how cancer has effected the lives of families across America. "Relay for Life is about celebrating survivorship, but it is also about remembering those who have lost the battle. It is about realizing that the disease affects more than just the cancer patient, and it is about bringing a community together in a common goal to raise funds to find a cure.

"This Relay reminds you that every one of us can make an impact in helping to find a cure," he added.

This year the Relay is dedicated to longtime Monmouth resident Stan Kenyon, who is being treated for cancer. Kenyon, a former Monmouth city manager, also served as the Director of Admissions for Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University).

The track at Central High will become a mini-village for 24 hours as team members have a constant presence on the track. Participants and visitors will be able to purchase food from Central High School Senior parents raising money for the 2005 graduation party, there will be an ACS store, and live entertainment will go on throughout the entire event. One of the highlights of the relay is the Luminaria candle-lighting ceremony on Friday evening, May 20.


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