By Ron Newberry
Karla Sharkey got involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for the first time 20 years ago at the request of a friend.
Over time, the event took on deeper meaning and now she couldn’t imagine not being a part of it.
“It grabs your heart,” she said.
Sharkey, from Oak Harbor, is the chair of the Relay for Life of Whidbey Island for the third time.
Teams are beginning to form and fundraising has begun for the event, which will take place May 31-June 1 at North Whidbey Middle School.
The goal for the Whidbey Island event this year is to have 95 teams participate and $210,000 raised, Sharkey said.
As of Friday, 45 teams had been formed with just under $21,000 raised.
“We still have a ways to go,” Sharkey said. “March and April start getting more teams. But the sooner they join, the sooner we can start fundraising.”
The Relay for Life was designed to raise money to fight cancer, celebrate survivorship, remember those lost to the disease and also increase awareness of the importance of cancer prevention.
Businesses can sponsor the event through different sponsorship levels. Individuals form teams to raise money. The cost to form a team is $100 with each team receiving a campsite.
During the event, teams stay overnight with members taking turns walking around the track. There is no minimum number of team members.
The Whidbey Island event typically draws between 2,000 to 3,000 participants and more than 250 cancer survivors.
“It’s the biggest single event on the island. It’s very unique,” said Leandra Reuble, co-chair of the Whidbey Island event.
“Most of the other events on the island are for tourists and off-islanders. This is all local.”
One of the event’s aims this year is to also attract teams and sponsors from beyond Oak Harbor.
“One import aspect of this event is it’s for the whole island,” Sharkey said. “We are trying to reach out to the south end of the island.”
Sharkey lost her mother-in-law, Lillian Sharkey, to cancer 27 years ago and learned last year that her mother, Miriam Kruse, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She said her mother is “doing great” and has been deemed cancer free.
The more Sharkey has participated in Relay for Life, the more it’s meant to her.
“It took me a while to really understand why I was really doing it,” Sharkey said. “To be honest, when you see somebody going through the cancer experience and having a bad experience and pass away, (then experience) my mother’s early diagnosis, treatment and research and now she’s cured, you can see the whole gamut. It makes a difference.”
For more information on how to join a team or sponsor the event, contact Karla Sharkey at 360-675-8091 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those interested also may register online at relayforlifeofwhidbeyisland.org.