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Lincoln Relay aims to raise a record $175,000 this year

Event chairs prepare to hand over reins
By: Cheri March The News Messenger
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As Lincoln is made over in various shades of purple in preparation for this weekend’s Relay for Life, two of the event’s planners are already looking ahead to next year. Relay co-chairs and longtime pals Kris Wyatt and Mandy Walker brought in record-breaking numbers in 2007, more than doubling both the amount of groups participating and money raised to 55 and $157,000, respectively, and increasing survivor participation. But after this weekend, their two-year terms are up. “We’re looking for someone else to step up,” Wyatt said. “I hate to see this die.” For now, though, their priority is the present. So far 48 teams have signed up for Lincoln’s third annual relay at the Lincoln High School stadium on Saturday and Sunday – a bit short of their 70-team goal. Wyatt said she is still hoping to raise $175,000, a slight rise over last year. “Even if people don’t have a team, we’d love for them to come out and celebrate with us,” she said. “Maybe they’ll catch the fever.” In the American Cancer Society’s classic fundraiser for cancer awareness and research, community groups – many clad in purple to celebrate survivors – pledge to keep walking the track for 24 hours. Wyatt joined the cause after cancer touched both her parents; her mom is a 43-year survivor, but her dad died from the disease. “It’s time for us to come up with a cure so my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren don’t have to deal with cancer,” Wyatt said. “When you lose someone, you want to find out ways to stop it from happening again and to not hurt as much. With cancer, you want to find a cure.” Her sentiments are reflected in this year’s theme — Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back. New to the ceremony in 2008, relay-goers will be able to purchase a live butterfly for $5 to free at the event’s kick-off. A survivors lap will begin the relay and the traditional luminaria display, in which each lighted bag represents an individual battle with cancer, will close out the ceremony. A survivors lap will begin the relay at 9 a.m. Saturday and the traditional luminaria display, in which each lighted bag represents an individual battle with cancer, will happen at 9 p.m. “The luminarias are such a powerful visual of the meaning behind Relay for Life,” said Walker. The ceremony wraps up on Sunday morning. One unique aspect of the current co-chair team has been their combined resources; Wyatt is a counselor at Lincoln High School, where the event is held, and Walker is assistant recreation director for the city of Lincoln. Though they will no longer be in charge, Wyatt said the two will stay involved, keeping the school-city relationship alive. Already, high school students and teachers make up at least five of the relay’s teams. And even though this year’s sign-ups have been a littler lower than anticipated, Walker said she isn’t too worried. “My thought is that people are going to be here if they’re going to be here,” she said. “It’s still going to be a phenomenal event.” Besides, donations are accepted through August, she said. As for her potential successors, Walker wants them to know the hard work required to put on the event is well worth it. “It sounds like a huge thing to take on, but it’s a team effort,” Walker said. “You’re not out there by yourself. And after it’s all done, you feel good.” For more information, contact Christina Breiner at 645-5298 or cbreiner@ci.lincoln.ca.us, or go online to relayforlife.org.