Relay For Life 2017

Last Friday night, a group of my friends and family participated in the annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life. We walked the track from 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. in memory of my aunt Jill, and in honor of so many others who have fought cancer. I’m so proud of my team, The Dukes – we raised over $2,500 this year! Being 8 months pregnant, I didn’t walk as far as normal, but I still managed to get about 14,000 steps and keep that baby in! Here are a few highlights of the evening.

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Relay For Life 2016

Saturday night was my 7th American Cancer Society Relay For Life event. I love Relay for so many reasons – from the cause, to the camaraderie, to the symbolism. A few of this year’s highlights:

  • I had the biggest team to date, with 30 people representing Team Dukes.
  • Our team raised over $3,000 – approximately $27,000 over the last six years!
  • I’m proud to say we had a breast cancer survivor on our team this year!
  • My husband made a couple of awesome light-up signs for our team – one we carried around as we walked the track for eight hours.
  • Thanks in part to all of the above, our team won the Spirit of Relay award!
  • My thoughtful team gave me a framed, signed print and a pedicure thanking me for being team captain (even though I couldn’t do it without them).
  • My 2-year-old stayed up until 1 a.m., playing hard around the track, in the long jump sand pit, and in the bounce house. She was a crazy, fun, hot mess!

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Bring Your Dog to Work Day

Yesterday my office hosted its annual Bring Your Dog to Work Day in support of the American Cancer Society Bark For Life event. The day began with a doggie meet-and-greet, and the dogs hung out around the office throughout the day. We wrapped up the afternoon with an ice cream social, complete with ice cream doggie treats! I didn’t have a pup to bring to the event, but I did get to doggie-sit while one coworker was on a call. It definitely made for a lively day at the office!

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Nicaragua Mission Trip – Day 4

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Tuesday, July 21 – The women and men split up today. The men went to the village to work until sometime in the afternoon, when a few of them visited a jail (that housed about 75 men and 2 women crammed into a few cells), and all of them went to Furia Santa, which was a rehab facility. They played the Furia Santa guys in a game of baseball, and I hear they lost because the Nicas cheated. 😉 The women started the day with a very scary/bumpy bus ride to the House of Hope – an organization trying to help women get out of prostitution, which is legal in Nicaragua.

Road to House of Hope
Road to House of Hope

Although they are technically supposed to be of-age, I believe they said the average age of entry was 11. (Two years younger than the U.S.) We had the opportunity to purchase jewelry and cards made by the women at House of Hope, which they do every Tuesday during a weekly spiritual program – for many, the crafts are the only “honest” income they get. I think there were probably 80-100 women there. For those who want to enter the program full time, they offer basic housing to stay in for 4 years with very strict rules. They receive training and a small microloan to begin a business. If they are still in the program after those 4 years, they are given a bigger microloan and a home off-site, and they have slightly less strict guidelines to follow. If they stick with it 5 more years, the house is theirs and they graduate the program. We got a tour of the facility and watched a bit of the morning sermon, then gave out sunglasses and just hung out with some of the younger girls. And when I say young, I mean really young. They were covered in makeup and wearing slightly more provocative/feminine clothing than all the other Nicas I had seen. But they were joking around, acting like typical teenagers – it breaks my heart to think of what they’ve already had to endure.

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A woman walking along the outskirts of the dump

Next we went to the dump, where people actually live. I was expecting to see homeless people around the edge of a landfill, but we stopped a couple of blocks out, because it can get quite dangerous the farther in you travel. There was a group of kids already at a building (which was recently purchased by Project H.O.P.E.) having Bible study, I think. We played music with them with Sariah’s musical instruments, and not a single piece walked away when it was time to leave. Amie and I served them lunch – one ladleful of rice, and one spoonful of soy protein mix. It didn’t smell appealing at all. They all had old bowls (sibling usually shared one), and ate it with their fingers. After serving lunch, we headed back to basecamp for our own lunch of sandwiches.

Small education center near the dump
A small education center near the dump
Playing music at the dump
Playing music at the dump

In the afternoon we visited the women’s cancer hospital, adjacent to a women’s hospital in Managua. As an employee of the American Cancer Society, I was really looking forward to this experience. I have to say, I’ve never wanted to end cancer as much as I did while I was there. It was hot – there was no airflow whatsoever. The women were all laying around aimlessly in a room full of beds lining the wall, but when we got there, they began to rise and graciously accepted our hugs, and their eyes just lit up. Claudia, one of the Project H.O.P.E. staff/interpreters, created a really fun and energetic atmosphere with games and music. While we were doing games, 4 women from our group went into rooms where women were getting chemotherapy and prayed over them. They said it was really emotional. We finished off our time there by painting their fingernails and toenails. One lady wanted all her red nail polish removed and French tips added, which took me quite awhile. It was a rewarding experience.

Housing at the women's cancer center
A room for about 40 women to stay at the women’s cancer center. Makes me appreciate the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge!
These men were peaking in the window watching the activities at the cancer center
These men were peeking in the window watching the activities at the cancer hospital
Music and dancing at the women's cancer hospital
Music and dancing at the women’s cancer hospital
Painting nails
Painting nails

Back at basecamp, we cleaned up and ate meatballs, rice, and mushroom sauce for dinner. We stayed up late and played Phase 10 with several of the others in our group.

I forgot to mention that on Sunday night we tried to Skype with Lil’ Miss K, which was a complete disaster. She started bawling when she saw us, so we decided we’d better not attempt it again the rest of the trip. Luckily we had Wi-Fi at basecamp so we were still able to hear from the grandparents each day.

Relay For Life – A Celebration of Hope

Friday night was my 6th annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life. I look forward to the Relay event every year, but for some reason, I was even more excited this year. From watching survivors walk the track, to a silent auction and fun on-site fundraisers, to a beautiful luminaria ceremony, I’m always crying and laughing by the end of the night. My 15-month old daughter had a blast running around the track and field – she didn’t crash until almost midnight! This year our team has raised just over $2,800 for the American Cancer Society, but of course we’re still accepting donations! I’d love to reach $3,000. Here is where the money goes.

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Fighting Cancer One Step at a Time

Friday night was my team’s fifth annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life event. I walk the track and fundraise in memory of my aunt Jill and in honor of many other friends and family. This year was a bit different – juggling team captain responsibilities and taking care of a four-month old was a challenge at times. And I didn’t get to take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked. This year we packed up around midnight rather than walking until 6 a.m. But our strong and mighty team has still raised over $3,000, and we aren’t finished yet! There’s still time to donate to the cause.

Check out photos from 2013, 2012, and 2011.

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Cousin Samantha during the Opening Ceremony
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Cake pops – one of the team’s fundraisers
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My mom with Baby K, in their Relay For Life t-shirts
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Our team’s luminaria in honor or memory of loved ones
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Lighted HOPE sign at Relay For Life (zoom effect used)

Photo Essay | Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

I posted a photo of the Kansas City Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Monday. Now that I’ve edited the other 300, I wanted to share a few more to give you a sense of this fabulous event. Kansas City raised over $400,000 for the American Cancer Society this year!

My husband’s aunts have both unfortunately had to deal with breast cancer.
About 15,000 people participated in this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.
Gathering for warm-ups and a ceremony before the walk.
A couple of the enthusiastic walkers.
A very spirited Making Strides Against Breast Cancer participant.
People walk to fight breast cancer with the beautiful Kansas City skyline in the background.
About to cross the finish line!
A Making Strides Against Breast Cancer banner flies in front of Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.