Relay takes first step toward its July goals

POULSBO — The kickoff event for the North Kitsap Relay for Life was a night that could easily stand as a microcosm of the actual event.

The Dancing Brush in downtown Poulsbo was aglow with lights as friends and relatives sat around nibbling tasty morsels, talking and laughing.

Cancer survivors and their families shared their stories and gave updates.

There was a chance to memorialize a valiant fight against cancer on a painted tile.

And there were even a few tears.

But through the ups and downs of the evening, one thing was true — everyone gathered had the same mission in mind.

“We need a cure and we need it now,” cancer caregiver and survivor Rhoda Layman told the crowd. “We have cancer survivors who can still have hopes and dreams because of people like you. Relay for Life truly allows each of us to see each other through.”

The Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fund-raiser that takes place in thousands of communities across the country, returns for its fourth year in North Kitsap this summer. Nationally, the event raised more than $243 million last year for the ACS for cancer research, support for those with cancer, and education for the public. And while the local event is still months away, organizers held a kickoff event Feb. 10 to get potential teams motivated.

The smell of food donated by a handful of local restaurants wafted through the air and red tickets held the chances of winning a door prize. But by far the most popular activity was painting tiles that will become part of a community mural.

For some the activity was personal.

Poulsbo resident Ronine Riggins carefully outlined words on a tile that said “celebrating mom,” a tribute to her mother who is a 26-year cancer survivor. Riggins is a cancer survivor as well, and said she’s lost both friends and family to the condition, so being involved with the Relay for Life just seemed like a natural thing to do.

“I’ve been involved with the relay every year since it started,” Riggins said. “I don’t do a lot, but I do something.”

For others, the tiles were a symbol of their empathy.

Kingston residents Helen McFadden and her daughter Pat McFadden worked at the fine details of their tiles. Helen’s was a rainbow, while Pat worked on a heart in a field of pink. Pat McFadden said the tiles weren’t for anyone in particular, just to show their support.

“We’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t been touched by anyone with cancer,” Pat McFadden commented.

Organizers are already signing up teams for the 24-hour relay style race in the North Kitsap, which will take place July 18-19 at the North Kitsap High School track. Starting with a meeting on March 11 and heading toward the actual event, team captains will meet once a month to get motivated for the relay. No matter what role they will eventually play in the 2003 North Kitsap Relay for Life, ACS Northwest Division Regional Vice President Larry Andrus told the group Monday night that they’d taken an important first step in what will be many more steps to fight cancer this year.

“Relay will save a life in the community just by being there. It has happened,” Andrus commented. “You should all be very proud of the fact that the message is getting out and that you are part of it.”

More information about the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life is available by calling (800) ACS-2345 or going to For more information about the North Kitsap Relay for Life contact Jo Ann at (360) 551-5986 or Linda Ouhl at

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