Pulling an all-nighter that could help save your life

June 23, 2008 9:04 pm
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At center stage in that photo from a few summers ago is Kevin Wooley (with Jim Dever and then-Hi-Yu Court members). You may know Kevin and wife Tammy Wooley, who are Fauntlee Hills residents – among other things, he chairs the Fauntleroy Community Services Agency, currently working to save the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse, and she volunteers at local schools. This Friday night into Saturday morning, we know where you can find them, and hundreds of others – at West Seattle Stadium, during the Relay for Life of West Seattle. It’s different from some of the other “walkathon” type fundraisers that happen each summer (like last weekend’s Race for the Cure) – and there are a variety of ways you can be part of it, with or without becoming an official participant. Read on to hear how Kevin and Tammy – a 10-year cancer survivor – describe it:

Relay for Life of West Seattle is one of many Relay for Life events around the country that raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The Wooleys have been involved since the start — Kevin was in fact its chair until a couple years ago. “Time to give it up for new blood and energy,” he says with a smile.

Looking back to that very first year — after participating in the citywide relay — “There was a meeting to organize a Relay for Life in West Seattle,” he recalls. “I was the only one there – besides the American Cancer Society person. Next meeting — me, and the American Cancer Society person.”

But by the time Relay night rolled around, they had recruited enough people that first year to field 14 teams. And it continues to grow – this year there are 22 teams, with more than 150 people participating in the relay.

Some of the reasons it differs from other events: For one, Tammy points out, it calls attention to all cancers, unlike other events that focus in on just one. For two, there is a time to remember, and a time to celebrate: At 6:30 pm, there is a survivors’ lap; at 10 pm, luminaria are lit in memory of those who have been lost:


Then at 11 am Saturday, the kids take a turn around the track — the entire community is invited to come and share those moments, as well as to come and show support any time during the event which ends with an awards ceremony at noon Saturday. “Maybe even walk a lap or two,” the Wooleys suggest.

And throughout the night, lots to do. “Families come and camp out – it’s a safe venue. And there are fun activities — a DJ, a movie …” Barbecues and potlucks are usually planned by teams, and they have the option to order pizza for a midnight delivery Friday night; you have to have sustenance, after all. Some even sell food to all takers, as another means of fundraising for the cause.

The ACS puts a lot of money into research, but it also helps cancer patients with some of the smaller, vital day-to-day details. “When I was fighting cancer, I got help with hair, and makeup … so many services,” Tammy recalls. “I see this as a way of giving back.” Their children come too, and it’s an important family celebration — their oldest was just a year old when Tammy was diagnosed with lymphoma.

“In the seven years (of Relay for Life of West Seattle), we’ve raised half a milion dollars for the Cancer Society,” Kevin notes.

In addition to research and patient support, that money helps to make sure more cancer is caught early — “You need to know what to look for,” Tammy explains. “They’ve come up with a lot of breakthroughs for treatment, but detection still has a long way to go. Even now, you get a blood test, and even if it shows you’re clear, you can’t help but wonder, am I really getting the whole story?”

Back to the relay: Why walk all night long? “Because cancer never stops,” says Kevin simply. They explain that participants usually walk half an hour at a time – though there are a few who go longer – but that’s why it’s a relay, so that you can share the effort with your teammates. Team spirit manifests itself in many different ways, as well – Tammy and Kevin explain that many teams decorate their tents, each team with a personalized display; sometimes the personality manifests itself during the relay too — they are quick to tell the story of a team that had a running card game, accompanied by abundant hooting and hollering. Each team was asked this year to do a lap “game,” and Kevin’s team is considering a “limbo” lap.

Teams are sponsored by individuals as well as businesses; Kevin mentions that Nucor has a big team this year, and Alaska Airlines will be part of it too.

From everything Kevin and Tammy mentioned during our conversation, one phrase of his lingers — “It gives you hope.”

Relay for Life of West Seattle happens 6 pm this Friday through noon Saturday at West Seattle Stadium. If you’d like to donate to the cause, you can do it online, or bring cash or a check to the event, though it’s not required for admission — if you just want to come show support and solidarity, they’ll be thrilled to see you too. The survivors’ lap is 6:30 pm Friday, luminarias are lit at 10 pm, and the kids’ lap is 11 am Saturday, before the awards ceremony at noon.

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