PHOTOS: Polk County Relay for Life Marked by Courage, Survival, Remembrance
Approximately 30 volunteers, 19 teams, 150 registered walkers and runners and up to 400 people took part in and attended the event in Ankeny to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Saturday’s Relay for Life event in Ankeny evoked words of courage, survival and remembrance as an estimated 400 people came to support one another and to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Four generations of Martins were on hand to cheer on Andrew Martin, 26, of Ankeny, who promised donors he would attempt to run 60 miles during the one-day event.
At a little after 1 p.m. he had hit 14 miles. Last year he ran 50 miles. He said he was running in rememberance of his father-in-law and his grandfather, who both died of cancer.
For the Martin family, who also was active in volunteering at Saturday's event held at Northview Middle School, Relay for Life allows them to give something back to a cause that has affected a number of their family members.
Judy Schaffer, Andrew’s wife's grandmother, worked with other family members to set up the silent auction tables before the event began at 11 a.m.
“I’m a cancer survivor… at this point. I’m still in treatment,” Judy said as she paused in her work. “I was here last year, but not as a volunteer or a survivor, but because of other family members. I just found out in February that I had breast cancer."
“I just think this (event) is just a wonderful thing to do," she said.
Her granddaughter and Andrew's wife, Abbie Martin of Ankeny, has been a volunteer for Relay for Life for the last two years. “My father died of Leukemia. And, I just found out last night that our dad’s mother has lung cancer.” The two women were working alongside Katelyn Martin of Ankeny, Andrew's sister.
These and other family members made up the approximately 30 volunteers and 150 registered walkers and runners taking part in the event. Much of the money raised on Saturday is from corporate and business sponsors and registration fees for the 19 teams involved this year, explained Sarah Espinoza, volunteer chairperson for publicity and online information for the event.
As the day began, the event had already raised $75,000, she noted. The goal this year is more than $85,000. Espinoza said that fundraising events taking place during the Relay for Life such as the silent auction, as well as other events, will bring donations closer to the goal.
Beverly Patterson of Des Moines attended as a cancer survivor. She and Jerry Patterson of Pleasant Hill, also a cancer survivor, had been to an event Friday night in Indianola. Beverly is a three-year survivor of breast cancer, while Jerry had kidney cancer.
“I do enjoy these events. They make it so nice for the survivors,” Beverly said.
Jerry echoed Beverly, adding, “You don’t want to hear you have cancer… We are here to support the American Cancer Society because they do so much for people who do have cancer."
The American Cancer Society, created in 1913, has raised money for research, assistance for cancer patients and more ever since, and has fought for “every birthday” since, according to committee members putting on the event.
In addition to participants running and walking laps around the track at Northview Middle School, the day was packed with activities from rock wall climbing provided by the National Guard to face painting and fun races such as the three-legged race.
People of all ages took part, including children who attend Alison’s Angels Day Care in Ankeny. They all wore shirts for the Papa’s Peeps team.
Alison Miller of Alison’s Angels donated a quarter for every “green day card” her day care children brought from school. Green cards signify they have behaved well in school. Of fourteen children, all but one raised at least $10 and one had $9.
“The kids have really enjoyed this. We raised $170. We called the team Papa’s Peeps because that’s what they call my father, who was diagnosed with cancer in December. He had his last chemo treatment in April and is doing well.”
Many participants made the event a family affair. Since 2006, the Imming family has used Relay for Life events as a time to celebrate and remember their father, Marvin Imming, and as a kind of family reunion. Six of his children, one of their spouses and six of Marvin's grandchildren took part in the relay Saturday.
Candy Imming of Ankeny explained that Marvin Imming had died three days before his birthday in July 2006. July of that year was the first time the family ran and walked together at a Relay for Life event.
She and several of her sisters had stopped under a shade tree to catch their breath, drink water and eat some lunch.
“We’ve done relays at Waukee, Sioux City and now Ankeny. Next year we’ll be in Rochester, Minn.,” Candy said. “We all have a hard time getting everyone together during holidays like Christmas because everyone is so busy, so we use the relay events as a reason to get together.”
The day ended with a luminaria event where hundreds of paper-bag lanterns were lit up around the track. On the bleachers, the luminaria spelled out “HOPE.”