Honoring those battling cancer

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Chatfield Senior High School hosts annual Relay for Life fund-raiser

By Deborah Swearingen

As the last beams of evening sun drifted behind the Front Range, people from across South Jeffco walked around the track at Chatfield Senior High School, casting shadows in the grass.


Their walk last Saturday was a part of Relay for Life, the signature fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society, and it was a symbolic one. Participants take turns walking throughout the night without sleeping to signify the sleeplessness of cancer.

“The next 12 hours will take us on a journey together symbolizing a night in the life of someone fighting cancer, a disease that never sleeps,” said Lindsey Simons, a 17-year-old Chatfield senior, in her welcome speech to the crowd.

The event, which has been held worldwide for 26 years, includes a survivors’ lap, a luminaria lighting ceremony and other activities to entertain the crowd throughout the night. But mostly Relay for Life is meant to raise money for the American Cancer Society and honor those battling cancer in its various forms.

“We do Relay for Life to celebrate survivors (and) remember loved ones lost,” said Lindsay Phelan, community manager with the American Cancer Society. “We use it as a way to fight back.”

One in two men and one in three women in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That equates to about 20,000 people in Colorado this year, Phelan said.

For event chair Reese Elder, 18, the fight is personal — her aunt beat breast cancer.

“I have been impacted very seriously in my life with cancer and so it’s become very dear to my heart since I started,” the Chatfield senior said.

Relay for Life is great, but in Elder’s mind, the impact of the event and the American Cancer Society is what makes it all worth it.

“The impact we make as a community as we join together hand in hand, that is what is my favorite part,” Elder said. “We make a difference in people’s lives, and it is noticeable.”

Simons made similar remarks in her welcome to event-goers.

“Our schools have all come together to put an end to cancer,” she said. “For the past 26 years in over 5,000 communities just like ours, over 5 million people have joined forces to save lives.”

Approximately 275 participants and 45 teams registered for last weekend’s event at Chatfield, which raised $55,000.

“The money goes to cancer research, our programs and services, education and really just helps us to help cancer patients in the community,” Phelan said.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.