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Relay for life celebrates survivors

Greg Marshall, Of the Record

Chuck Heckart has lost his spleen, gall bladder, pancreas and most of his intestines to cancer. But he hasn’t lost his heart.

Heckart was 51 when he was diagnosed with adrenal clear cell carcinoma. It is a rare cancer that originates in the adrenal glands and affects one or two people in a million. Chemotherapy and radiation, the lance and sword in the battle to fight most forms of cancer, are ineffective in shrinking carcinomas.

"The only thing that works on it is surgeries," Heckart said. The Nordic ski-jumping judge said he underwent nine surgeries from 2001 to 2007 to excise the disease. He has been cancer-free for a year.

Heckart is one of about 65 survivors who will walk the first lap around the track Aug. 15 at Quinn’s Junction Soccer Field and Ice Rink. Park City’s sixth Relay for Life is a 12-hour campout, walk and fundraiser with teams from the community honoring the caregivers, loved ones and survivors of cancer. Relay participants help raise money and awareness to support the American Cancer Society.

The survivors lap is at 6:30 p.m. Then survivors and their families will be treated to a dinner. Teams of eight to 15 people take turns walking the track for the duration of the event. "Anyone can walk," says Susan Morrell, team development chair for the event. "The idea is more the show of force."

Once darkness falls, participants will light luminaries for people who have died of cancer.

Organizers decided on a Wizard of Oz theme for this year’s event. Morrell’s team from Deer Valley, plans to fashion its camp site after the "Wizard of Oz." "There’s no place like hope," Morrell quips.

Morrell, who lost her mom to colon cancer in 1991, has participated in Relay for Life events for more than a decade in Lorraine, Ohio, and Park City. She has been instrumental in making the event successful. In 2006, the first year Morrell participated in a Relay for Life here, residents raised $30,000 to support cancer research, support groups, transportation and treatment for some cancer survivors. In 2007, that number soared to $109,000. Of the 44 Relay for Life events held last year in the state of Utah, Park City ranked second in donations only to Vernal, which raised $200,000, according to Cathy Arndt of the American Cancer Society.

As a state, Relay for Life raised $1.6 million in 2007 and much of that money comes from places outside Salt Lake City. "I think smaller communities are a little more family-oriented," Arndt said. "That’s my guess as to why they raise so much money."

Arndt said the most important part of the relay isn’t about money, it’s about showing solidarity. "It gives people hope," she said.

Park City’s Survivorship Chair Angela Laros lost her dad to lung cancer 28 years ago. She said the Relay for Life is a rewarding way for her to contribute to finding a cure. "It makes me feel good to give back," she said. "All of us have been touched by cancer."

Morrell said organizers hope to raise $50,000 this year. That number may be a far cry from last year’s six-digit total, but as long as organizers see more survivors and fewer luminaries memorializing the dead, it will be a job well done, Morrell said.

Hope floats, and ice skates

One of the unique aspects about the Park City Relay for Life is that it incorporates free skates and games on the ice rink as well as live music and festivities along the track. The public can skate with Olympic gold medalist Eric Heiden at the rink from 7-9 p.m. Aug. 15. Morrell said the event is part of the effort to attract the general public.

"There’s a misnomer out there," she said. "Some people say, ‘Oh, well I can’t race.’ The relay isn’t a race. It’s really the culmination of teams coming together. The relay is about remembering, celebration and fighting back."

Lisa Ruskin is the coordinator for events on the rink. She said including 12 hours of coached skating in the relay adds to the appeal of the event.

Men’s and women’s hockey games will entertain guests and volunteer instructors will help get the public on ice, Ruskin said.

"I’ve tried to have something on the ice for everyone," she said. "It adds a whole new dimension to the event."

Ruskin has been involved with the Park City Relay for Life since it began. She envisions one day including biking to the list of activities.

As part of fighting back, organizers are auctioning off prizes, including ski passes donated by each of the ski resorts in town, tickets to the Egyptian play "Pageant," gym passes and oil changes.

"Businesses have been so generous," Morrell said. "You’re giving from the heart and not the pocketbook."

For Kathy Herschberg of Park City, community support has meant the difference between life and death. In the past year, her sister and daughter have passed away and her husband will have to undergo treatment for prostate cancer. All this as her own battle with breast cancer continues. She is on an eight week "vacation," as she calls it, from treatment.

On a good day, Herschberg’s treatment at the Huntsman Cancer Institute takes five hours. On a bad day it can take as many as seven.

"Unless you’ve had the disease you don’t understand how devastating it is for a family," she said. "This is a year we’d both like to forget. But we’ll get through it because of this community."

To donate money to Park City’s Relay for Life or to start a team, go to http://www.events.cancer.org/rflparkcityut . The 2008 Relay For Life of Park City

for the American Cancer Society Aug. 15-16 from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.at Quinn’s Junction Soccer Field & Ice Rink.

Schedule of events:

OUTDOOR EVENTS SCHEDULE

6 8 p.m.

Food, entertainment, games, face painting, bounce house; Utah Grizzlie’s Grizzbee the Bear in attendance

6 9 p.m.

Silent Auction (ends promptly at 9 p.m.)

6 p.m 7 a.m.

Only 300 drawing tickets sold for a Season Pass to one of the 3 Park City resorts; 1 in 100 chance to win!

6 p.m.

Opening Ceremonies

6:30 p.m.

Survivors’ Lap and dinner

7 p.m.

Presentation of Teams

8 p.m.

Entertainment by band Eagle Hawk; Giant Twister game; Scattered Hunt

9 p.m.

Lollipop Gang Golf; Look-a-Like Contest

10 p.m.

Luminaria Ceremony commemorating loved ones lost to cancer

10:30 p.m.

Silent Auction winners announced; Band Eagle Hawk performs

11 p.m 7 a.m..

Hourly themes, entertainment and games; Midnight pizza; Dawn breakfast

7 a.m.

Season Pass Drawing for a pass to one of the 3 Park City resorts (winner needn’t be present at drawing)

8 a.m.

Closing Ceremonies: River Meadows Ballet

ICE EVENTS SCHEDULE

7 9 p.m.

Public Skating with Eric Heiden, Olympic gold medal speedskater

9:15 10 p.m.

Performances: Park City Figureskating Club; Stephanie Bass; Kinsley Johnson (aerial skating)

11 p.m. 12:15 a.m.

Men’s Hockey Game

12:30 2 a.m.

Coached Open Skating with Bob Devaney

2:15 3

Women’s Hockey Game

3:45 4:50

Open Public Skating

4:50 5:00 a.m.

Aerial Silks Performance by Kinsley Johnson

Info Box:

Top Fundraisers:

1 – Women’s Hockey ($7,594)

2 – Deer Valley Resort ($3,770)

3 – Bunco Babes Rolling for a Cure ($2,380.45)

4 – Mitchell ($1,685)

5 – Loiselle Contracting ($805)


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