Relay for Life takes shape for June 13-14

With 19 teams representing more than 100 individuals signed up and two new event chairs, the 2014 Relay for Life of Homer, an event supporting the American Cancer Society, is in its final stages of preparation before the annual event occurs June 13-14.

Michelle Drake and Michelle Geagel are co-chairing the event, supported by a committee of 10 and the state organizers of Relay for Life.

The search began last fall for a new duo to pick up where Marilyn Parrett and Tammy Ackerman, co-chairs of previous successful Homer Relays, left off. 

“My kids said, ‘Mom, you should do it,’” said Michelle Geagel, a four-year Relay for Life of Homer participant. “I said I didn’t think I could. I was pregnant with my fourth child at the time.”

“My kids do stuff. My husband works out of town two weeks a month,” said Geagel. But she didn’t have to look any farther than her own family for motivation. 

“My uncle died of lymphoma, something he battled for more than 20 years,” said Geagel. “Statistically, one of three women and one in two men in their lifetime will be diagnosed with cancer. For me, there’s myself and I have three daughters and I have my husband and my son. So there’s a chance either my husband or son could be diagnosed, and I know myself and up to two of my daughters could be diagnosed. That, for me, is tremendous.”

Then, there was the encouragement she received from Drake.

“We were at an informational meeting (about Relay) at the hospital training room and (Drake) was sitting in the chair in front of me. She was co-captain for my Relay team last year. She turned around, looked at me and said, ‘What do you think? We can do it.’ So, with my kids telling me to do it, I couldn’t say no,” said Geagel.

Drake also has only to look to her family for motivation to participate in an event that supports the American Cancer Society.

“My grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and is a current survivor,” said Drake. “My grandpa passed away about a year ago. He had throat cancer. And I’ve known people, many, many friends and family that have been affected one way or another.” 

Relay for Life dates back to 1985, when a Washington doctor, Gordy Klatt, walked and ran for 24 hours around a track, raising $27,000 to help fight cancer. Relays are now held worldwide and have raised almost $5 billion. Relays began happening in Homer in 2010. The history and broad scope of Relay for Life has meant Drake and Geagel have not been on their own. 

 “Last year’s event chairs have really done wonders in helping us,” said Drake.

In addition to the local committee, there also has been help from outside the area.

“We had no idea that the American Cancer Society would help us set up our goals,” said Geagel. “They came here and looked at the previous years that were so successful. They’ve brought in more than $100,000. So, they set our original goal at $80,000. But we were like, are you kidding? This is our first year.”

A $60,000 goal was agreed upon for this year.

Held in the Homer High School parking lot last year, the 2014 Relay has found a new home: Homer Middle School’s track.

The grassy area around the middle school track offers plenty of room for teams planning to set up tents for the over-night event. 

“We’ve got it all sectioned off for anybody who wants to camp and their team can have its own area,” said Drake.  

A “Paint the Town Purple” event on Wednesday, June 11, helps focus the community’s attention on Relay.

“We put thank-you signs on businesses of Homer that have supported Relay and cover the town in purple ribbons and balloons,” said Drake. Of the growing support, she said, “The town of Homer has once again come through amazingly.” 

A survivor and caregiver reception sponsored by the Homer United Methodist Women is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. June 13. Then, at 5 p.m., Relay officially begins. Participants continue circling the track, raising funds for ACS through pledges, until the closing ceremonies at 2:30 p.m. June 14.

It is not too late to participate. Anyone wanting to walk around the track with other relayers can come to event, pay $10 and “walk to their heart’s content,” said Drake.

For more information about the Relay for Life of Homer:

Michelle Drake: 399-5262;

Michelle Geagel: 399-1359;

Online: relayforlifeofhomer.org.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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