Relayers gather in Othello to fight cancer

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Breast cancer survivor Nancy Tax holds her grandson Greyson at the Relay for Life gathering and fundraiser in Othello on Saturday.

OTHELLO — It was less a relay and more a gathering.

But it was still for life. And it still raised funds to fight cancer.

“This is a gathering, and it’s more like a festival,” said Relay organizer Melissa Martinez as people gathered for food and music in Othello’s Pioneer Park.

It’s the first time they’ve gathered in Pioneer Park, largely because the American Cancer Society, which oversees the annual fundraising event, has decided to let local organizations do all of the organizing and planning themselves.

“That’s been a big learning curve for me,” Martinez said.

And so there was no relay this year, though next year Martinez said they may take advantage of the proximity of Othello High School’s football stadium and use the track there for the relay.

But this year, it was just food, music, and fellowship.

“This is our 13th Relay for Life here in Othello, and of last year, I am a survivor,” said Edie Borgman, who along with her husband Dennis have been involved in cancer awareness and fundraising for many years.

“Sometimes people will say, ‘You’re a survivor?’ and I think, gosh, I just had skin cancer,” Borgman said. “But, cancer is cancer.”

Borgman said that early detection is key to survival. When she was younger, she said she did things — like cover herself in baby oil and lay out in the sun — that significantly increased her risk. And then, when some cells on her skin went haywire, she and her family paid attention to the oddly shaped and oddly color blotch on her arm.

“Take advantage of screenings, mammograms for you ladies, prostate exam for you men,” she said. “It helps with early detection.”

According to Martinez, Othello Relay for Life raised somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 last year. This year, going into the “Relay,” the group had raised around $15,000.

“I hope to finish with $25,000, that’s a nice goal for this year,” she said.

Out of every dollar raised or donated, Martinez said 72 cents go straight to fighting cancer — research, detection or services for patients.

The gathering featured music from Othello native Aly the Traveling Marimba Busker, games, food, music requests, and ended with a candlelight vigil in remembrance of all those who have struggled with cancer or lost the fight.

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