Whidbey Island’s Relay for Life shares fight, hope

The Survivor Lap celebrates everyone who’s beaten cancer as they open the Relay for Life with a first lap around the track at North Whidbey Middle School at 6 p.m. June 1.

This is the event that lets everyone who has survived cancer, is fighting cancer, caring for those fighting cancer and all who are affected unite to show that this disease can’t beat hope.

The Relay for Life of Whidbey Island will be held Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 at the North Whidbey Middle School track. The Survivor Lap begins at 6 p.m. June 1 with guest speakers. At 10 p.m., a luminary event celebrates and remembers cancer survivors, fighters and victims.

Teams from South, Central and North Whidbey stay overnight to walk at all times to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Karla Sharkey has captained teams for 17 years of the 19 that she has participated in Relay for Life and even headed the whole event. This year, she is a captain of the team IDEX Health & Science, the top donating team so far with more than $10,000 and still time to raise more.

This year, the event became much more personal for her as her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I relay so that my children will be able to know their grandma,” Sharkey said.

Ginny Walters relays because “it’s therapy.”

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. Today, she is a five-year survivor.

“Somebody helped me through my journey so I want to help somebody else, in essence. So this is an opportunity to help someone else,” Walters said as to why she does Relay for Life.

Relay for Life also led her to other American Cancer Society programs. Now, she drives patients to their appointments.

This year’s relay is especially important to Walters because her sister, also a survivor, flew here from New York to walk with her. Walters is part of the WISH team, Whidbey Island Survivors Hope.

“It’s very exciting to be doing it, to be sharing it as a team of survivors,” Walters said.

To Walters, sharing is what it’s all about.

“It’s sharing, period. In one way or another, we’re all affected (by cancer). Sharing means you don’t have to take this journey alone,” Walters said.

“It’s a great community event,” Sharkey said. Usually, there are 2,000 to 3,000 participants and more than 250 survivors just at the Whidbey Island event.

“The most touching thing is having people just come together for finding the cure. You don’t realize how connected you are with all groups of life till you come to an event like this,” Sharkey said. “We’re all there for one reason; it doesn’t matter who you are or what age you are.”

Those connections are what make this event stand out to Walters.

“You’re not alone. You are not alone. I like to share that with people because at the time, I didn’t realize it as I was going through that journey. You are not alone,” Walters said.

“Everyone’s affected by this and we would love to have any and all participants — the more the merrier. We need to combat this monster, this disease,” Walters said.

For information or to donate, visit www.relayforlife.org/northwhidbeywa.

The South Whidbey delegation to the Relay for Life event is being led by Sine Hough. For information, call her at 341-1210.