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It was a festive but emotional evening as volunteers, team participants and cancer survivors gathered at the Meridian Center in Blackfoot Thursday night for a Hawaiian Luau to kick off planning efforts for this year's Bingham County "Relay For Life." The event to be at Blackfoot High School June 14-15.
Joyce Dalley and Sherilyn Bair are the chairs of this year's event. They have a goal of raising over $150,000 for the American Cancer Society. Last year's fundraiser raised over $100,000. In addition to raising money, "Relay For Life" celebrates, remembers and honors those who have fought cancer or are currently fighting cancer.
Local breast cancer survivor Kim Buck, a teacher at Stoddard Elementary School, spoke at the event about her journey with cancer, reflecting on how "Relay For Life" has impacted her life. Buck has been cancer-ree for eight years, saying that great strides have been made in treating the rare, "triple negative" type of cancer that she was diagnosed with thanks to research and funding raised through "Relay For Life."
"This has been quite a journey with many, many blessings and "Relay For Life" has been a big part of it," Buck said. "I am a more grateful and stronger person now; I appreciate the sunrises and sunsets more than ever and I can help work for a cure."
An emotional Anna Blonquist, a mother of five from Blackfoot, spoke of being a caregiver for her two-year-old daughter- Acacia, who lost an eye after being diagnosed with a rare type of tri-gemini cancer (that grows in the eyes and brain), when she was just 9 months old.
Blonquist said she and her family try and cope with a lot of humor.
"And sleep...sleep is overrated. Who really needs sleep?" she quipped as she described dealing with her daughter's illness.
Blonquist said that doctors have warned that as her daughter grows, the cancer will likely spread to her bones.
"It's tough, but I am blessed to be my daughter's caregiver and to take care of someone I love so much."
Blonquist has a strong support of family and friends through "Relay For Life" who are hopeful that a cure to Acacia's cancer will be found.
Debra Schneider of Blackfoot, who lost her father, Dave Adams of Blackfoot just four weeks before last year's "Relay For Life" event, said it would've been easy for her 'not' to participate so soon after losing her father.
"But what would that say to those who are still fighting?" she asked.
It was a quiet moment as luminaries were lit in the darkened room for those who have lost their fight to cancer, currently have cancer or have survived cancer, followed by a lively hula-dance competition.
American Cancer Society "Relay For Life" is the largest grassroots, non-for profit cancer fundraiser in the the world.
Anyone who would like to participate in this year's Bingham County "Relay For Life" can call Joyce Dalley at 208-684-4097.