Relay for life celebrates cancer survivors

Far from a solemn march, Homer’s Relay for Life event promises to celebrate the successes achieved by cancer survivors and the strength shown by those continuing to battle the disease. 

Starting at 6 p.m. June 12 and running until noon June 13 at West Homer Elementary School, the event spans 18 hours, and is meant to symbolize the journey a person with cancer takes as they go through such an ordeal. On Tuesday, Relay for Life announced it had moved the event to the elementary school on Soundview Avenue off the Sterling Highway. Construction at the middle school made access to the track difficult.

“You start motivated and ready to go, then you get tired and unmotivated, but, towards the end, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, the event stops and you make it through,” said Michelle Drake, event chair for the Relay for Life. “It gives you a glimpse of what the struggle is like.” 

Both Drake and her co-event chair Michelle Geagel have seen the battle with cancer take its toll on their family and friends. That story is not an uncommon one, with many people knowing friends and family members who have been closely affected by the disease.

“This event is really to get the entire community together to show those people that are battling cancer the love that exists for them, and that they’re not alone in this dark time of their life,” Drake said.

Geagel whole-heartedly agrees.

“People meet new survivors and it gives everybody a sense of why we do what we do,” she said.

The Relay for Life is open to all community members, with plenty of activities for every age and interest. Those who don’t care to walk in the relay itself can visit one of the many activity, craft and food booths that Relay for Life team members have set up. In past years, team members have raffled off chainsaws, sold hot dogs and held lots of games for people of all ages. 

All proceeds from the event go towards cancer research and support programs for those afflicted with cancer. 

Prizes will be given to teams for categories like best campsite, most team spirit, best costume and the ever-popular “dude looks like a lady” contest. 

The event also includes a “Luminaria Ceremony” at 11:15 p.m. where participants can decorate a paper bag that will be placed around the track and illuminated with a candle in honor of their loved ones who have lost the battle with cancer. 

The opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. At 4 p.m., however, the Relay for Life staff hold a special survivor dinner catered by Maura’s Café. This dinner is free for anyone who has survived cancer or is currently going through the struggle.  

There are many people who walk for the full 18 hours of the event, and the hospital will provide a hospitality tent with coffee, hot meals and snacks throughout the night.

“Trust me, around 2 a.m., that cup of coffee and soup tastes really good!” Drake said, laughing. 

Both Drake and Geagel encourage all members of the community to come out and show their support however they would like, even if they don’t want to walk or participate on a team. 

For more information about Relay For life, you can visit the the Homer Relay for Life Facebook page.

Aryn Young is a freelance writer living in Homer.

Relay for Life


Homer Middle School track


6 p.m. June 12: Opening Ceremony, Survivors and Caregivers Lap.

11:15 p.m. June 12: Luminaria Ceremony

Noon June 13: Closing Ceremony


A fundraiser for the American Cancer Society to support research and programs for cancer patients.

Who can

Anyone. People not wanting to walk the entire 18 hours can support other fundraisers at the event.


To pledge or for more information, visit