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A new feature to Relay for Life

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By The Staff

There are sights that have become very familiar to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life – the purple T-shirts, rows of glowing luminaries and walkers pounding the pavement as early as 1 a.m. But there will be a new sight to behold during this year’s relay.  

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Local celebrities will show off their moves on the dance floor. The event, Dancing with the Stars, will be held during a break at the Los Alamos Summer Concert Series’ show June 25 at Ashley Pond.

The stars are Community Services Director Stephani Johnson, County Administrator Tony Mortillaro, County Councilor Mike Wismer, Los Alamos High School graduate and outgoing student body president Josh Dolin, Los Alamos Arts Council Executive Director Marlane Hamilton, incoming student body president KJ Juarez, Los Alamos Public School Superintendent Gene Schmidt, Department of Public Utilities John Arrowsmith, County Councilor Ralph Phelps, retired Los Alamos National Laboratory employee and Los Alamos resident Pat Soran, and Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Ann Hayes.

Each celebrity will dance with his or her spouse, significant other or a professional dancer, said Cindy Eaton, co-director of the Relay for Life along with Alan Wadlinger.

The dancers perform two dances and then people will pay a fee to vote for their favorite performers. The top dancers, she said, will dance and the winner will get a trophy.

So really, Eaton joked, the competitors don’t need to be good dancers to snag first place; they just need to have a lot of friends.

“We’re hoping this will be an annual event,” Eaton said.

Ann Le Page got inspired by the TV show, “Dancing with the Stars,” and created the local version of the program.

Wadlinger commented the new feature is a great addition to Relay for Life. “It has more community participation. It should be fun for people there and the stars can showcase their dancing talents.”

Another new addition to the relay is the birdhouse auction, which will conclude at 9 p.m. June 25.

The regular activities associated with the Relay for Life will kick off at 6 p.m. June 25 at Ashley Pond.

June 25, the survivor’s lap and reception will begin at 6:15 p.m. and live music by the Old Blind Dogs, which is part of the summer concert series, will begin at 7 p.m.

The luminaria ceremony will begin at 10 p.m. before walkers begin to circumnavigate the pond.

To help participants burn the midnight oil, board and video games will be provided along with movies, sumo wrestling, face painting, fishing for prizes and cotton candy.

The relay continues June 26 with a waffle breakfast served by the Masons’ from 7:30-10:30 a.m. The price is $6.

A Jolly Jumper will be set up for children and DJ Tim Gallegos will spin some tunes. A bubble tub, sumo wrestling, face painting and a water balloon toss will be offered as well.

At 9 a.m., Pet Pangaea will sponsor a pet walk.

So far, 16 teams with a total of 88 members have registered for the event. The goal, Eaton said, is to raise $50,000. Last year, the event raised about $30,000.

The proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society, a nation-wide organization devoted to ending cancer, but locals can see the money at work in their own community.

Wadlinger said a few local programs include Reach for Recovery, which is available to women who have had mastectomies, Look Good, Feel Good, which provides hair and makeup tips to women who are undergoing chemotherapy, and Camp Enchantment, which is available to siblings of children who has been diagnosed with cancer.

Additionally, Wadlinger added the American Cancer Society provides a 24-hour phone line and a Web site are available to everyone across the country.

The are a multitude of reasons to attend Relay for Life, whether it is to support American Cancer Society’s programs or to honor more personal reasons.

“Everybody comes to relay for a different reason,” Eaton said. “My goal is to provide an environment that they can take home something that meaningful.”

She added, “It’s not a sad event … it celebrates life. It’s a very personal experience and I want to honor all the reasons why people come to relay.”

It may be a celebration but the local Relay for Life, which started in the late 90s, faces its own challenges. Wadlinger said they have not experienced a whole lot of growth in participation.

When it first started, he said they were the only game in town, now there are relays in Española, Santa Fe, Taos and other areas.

Therefore, new features such as the birdhouse auction and Dancing with the Stars are valuable because they encourage growth, Wadlinger said.

Despite the challenges, people in the community do take notice of the event.

Bernice Williams, president of Los Alamos Council on Cancer, said, “ I feel (Relay for Life) gives the community hope to see cancer survivors there, participating in the event.

“I also feel it is peaceful setting to reflect on those people who have fought cancer and lost. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to help with the fight against cancer.”

Williams also gives that to “all the dedicated people who are fighting this disease.”