Cancer never sleeps, and neither do the "Lifers"

By: Amanda Calzada and Anne Stokes, Placer Herald Correspondents
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By Amanda Calzada and Anne Stokes Placer Herald Correspondents Glowing through the crisp, cool night breeze, a small candle inside a white paper bag labeled “Deborah Haas-Henry” ignites a memory for Bonnie Henderson as she stood on the Granite Oaks Middle School track during Rocklin’s 11th annual Relay for Life on Saturday and Sunday. Cancer’s “going to affect you somehow,” said Henderson, as she gazed at the 800 luminary bags lining the track in memory of those who lost a battle with cancer as well as those who have survived it. Henderson organized a team in honor of her friendship with Haas-Henry, a friendship that began when the two women were in first grade. To celebrate Haas-Henry as a cancer survivor, Henderson surprised her friend by walking with her during the Relay For Life held in Monument, Colo. on Aug. 1. Although more than 20 tents and 32 teams congregated in the center of the field, participants constantly moved around the track. While some participated as survivors and others came to honor a loved one, everyone at last weekend’s event came to fight cancer. “When you’re walking on the track and you see hundreds of people from your community coming together because they have been touched by cancer, it’s very moving,” said Sarah Evingham, Senior Relay For Life Manager in the California division of the American Cancer Society. Evingham said she began volunteering with the agency after both her parents were diagnosed with the disease. “It gives everybody the opportunity to come back together year after year and fight cancer,” she said. “We have a tremendous number of survivors here this year, which is awesome. We had some people who have been newly diagnosed and we had some survivors who’ve been here many, many years. I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone to come together and realize that cancer is something you can battle, and something that you can win, and that we’re all fighting it together.” Saturday’s celebration kicked off with 75 cancer survivors walking the survivors’ lap at the opening of the event. Led by bagpipe music, a walk of silence during the luminary ceremony was held at 9 p.m. Saturday as a tribute to those who lost their battles to cancer or are continuing to fight the disease. Skip Knapp of Rocklin, who took care of his wife, Teresa, during her battle with cancer 22 years ago, organized a team, Faithful Friends, and raised nearly $2,500. “I think something like this helps promote the cause and gives you the personal satisfaction that you’re doing something – that you’re raising funds for a noble cause,” he said. “It’s great to see these survivors, but it’s sad when you don’t see people who were here last year and you know they’re gone.” Survivor Kathryn Dungan of Rocklin participated to raise both money and awareness for a disease that has touched not just her own life, but also the lives of many friends and family members. “I think it’s very important to increase the awareness of cancer, taking care of you and anything you can do to decrease your chances of getting cancer,” she said. “I’m amazed at this Relay For Life in Rocklin and how many good friends and family I have that took care of me and my family when I was sick. I really appreciate that.” Outside of the United States, Relay For Life, the world’s most successful non-profit fundraising event, is held in 19 countries throughout the year to bring awareness to the disease that affects humanity 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Throughout the day, activities for participants were held, including Tai Chi, contests, raffles, line dancing, Bingo and Zumba. Movies were projected on a screen during the night. This year’s event was sponsored by 15 local organizations and entities. Thirty-one teams of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and high school students took part. Approximately 350 participants visited the middle school field during the 24-hour event. As of 10 a.m. Sunday, donations totaled $52,000. More than $40,000 was collected by 10 p.m. Saturday night. Fundraising will continue through Dec. 31. Anyone interested in making a donation can e-mail Sarah Evingham at