KODIAK — Who hasn’t been touched by cancer?
That was the question Sarah Nugent asked two days ahead of Relay for Life, a 24-hour event that promises to bring hundreds of participants out in Kodiak. Nugent is a leadership volunteer for the event, which starts at noon on Saturday.
Part of a national fundraising campaign, local teams will attempt to keep at least one person walking the track at all times from noon Saturday to noon Sunday at Woody Way Field. Money raised by the event goes to support the American Cancer Society.
“The mission of Relay For Life is to raise funds to improve cancer survival, decrease the incidence of cancer and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caretakers,” Nugent said on Thursday. “I lost my mom to cancer. And a lot of people think that with a big organization that the money is just going into a big pot, and CEOs are just taking a big cut. They think it won’t help people in Kodiak — but I’m here to say that it helps local people, too.”
At the age of 50, Nugent’s mother, Sue Thompson, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Thompson succumbed to the disease in 2011, when she was 53.
“When my mom was going through her cancer battle, the American Cancer Society was amazing. From helping with transportation to or from the island — at that time there was no treatment on island — to helping her with a wig when she lost her hair,” Nugent said. “They also trained her on how to apply her makeup and take care of her skin after chemo, as part of the Look Good, Feel Better campaign.”
Additionally, the American Cancer Society provided support by connecting Thompson with researchers, to whom she could submit tissue samples to help further scientists’ understanding of cancer, Nugent said.
“It’s invaluable. You can’t put a price on that,” Nugent said. “This is my way of giving back, fighting back, taking a stand and being there for people who maybe are going through similar circumstances. That’s why Relay is there, it brings people together. It’s about community.”
In its 11th year, the Relay for Life Kodiak event has had a number of participants marching forward step-by-step every single year. Among the ranks are event chairman Jerry Clark, Judi Kidder, Bianca Clark, Angela Graham and Julie Coyle.
“I had cervical cancer and then the following year my grandmother passed away after fighting skin and breast cancer. I walk BECAUSE I CAN (my team name) for those who aren’t able to!” Coyle said on Thursday. “Over the years, I have added quite a few more names to my list of who I walk for. Some still fighting, some who are cancer free and are celebrating and some I’ve lost.”
Graham also walks for her family, pointing out that “once you live here, everyone becomes your extended family.”
As of Thursday, there were 20 teams with 120 participants registered for the Kodiak event, which is running under the slogan “attacking cancer from all angles.”
“However, we have hundreds who join in the relay. You don’t have to be on a team to walk,” Nugent said. “And, it’s not too late to register.”
To register for the tobacco-free, alcohol-free, drug-free and pet-free family-friendly event, go to www.relayofkodiak.org.