By Mickey Winfield, Freedom New Mexico
The theme for the American Cancer Society’s 2008 Relay for Life in Portales is, “Relay like a Rockstar,” and starting Friday night, area residents will be able to do just that.
Portales’ Family, Career and Community Leaders of America is joining with Texico’s FCCLA and Yucca Junior High’s FCCLA in the event.
Debbie Stenstrom, the advisor for the Portales chapter of FCCLA, has been involved on the team participation level as well as on an organizational level for about seven years.
“As a team member it’s a lot less stressful. You get to go and enjoy the music, hang out at your campsite and hang out with your team members and meet other people from other teams,” Stenstrom said. “As a camper, it was a very much more relaxed atmosphere.”
Dorothy Nelson, the Portales Relay for Life community relationship manager, has been helping organize the Portales event for 11 years.
“I’m a (cancer) survivor,” Nelson said. “It is such an encouragement for the survivors, and for those who are currently battling cancer.”
A number of local musical acts are also set to perform into the early morning hours of Saturday including: Thank You Cleveland, Third Morning Rise, Kacee Lovato Band and Lane Stevens.
“We have a lot of great local bands,” Stenstrom said. “They are very serious about their music, and they are donating their time.”
Yearly event traditions include the survivor dinner, a milk chugging contest, a luminaria ceremony, a Ms. Relay Pageant and many other activities.
All monies collected from this weekend’s event will fund cancer research on the national level.
“Research is where it’s all at,” Stenstrom said. “If you can find the cures to different kinds of cancer, that comes back and helps the community.”
Stenstrom also spoke about the unpredictability of the affliction and said it’s that unpredictability that requires the annual massive fundraiser.
“You really don’t know where cancer is going to strike,” Strenstrom said. “You don’t know if it’s going to strike a loved one — It could be your husband, it could be your wife, it could be your children and it could be yourself. You don’t know when and where cancer is going to strike. You could be walking around with cancer right now and you wouldn’t know it.”
More than 20 teams are expected to participate and between 150 and 200 cancer survivors, as well as those who are currently battling the disease, are expected to attend the survivor’s dinner which kicks off the event Friday night at Greyhound Arena and the event’s opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m.
Stenstrom also talked about the symbolic nature of the event.
“It’s an overnight event,” Stenstrom said. “The idea is to keep somebody from your team on the track at all times. It’s significant in that cancer never sleeps — it never rests. When somebody battles cancer they fight it all the time.”
“It’s a great thing to get everyone together,” Nelson said. “It’s kind of like old-home-week. It’s very, very important that we recognize our survivors.”
While registration for the event is closed, organizers welcome anyone who wants to come and participate in this weekend’s Relay for Life.
“We’ll try our best to continue to take registration until Friday at noon,” Stenstrom said.
Stenstrom said if you are interested in forming a late team, you can call her at 693-2369.
“We’ll have plenty of fundraising events available. Even if you are not on a team, it’s a community event and we want the community members to come out and participate. Even if you aren’t on a team, you are allowed to walk.