Cindy Trug hates cancer.
“I don’t hate anything in this world but cancer,” the Gardner woman explained.
She takes out her aggression about the disease each year by forming a team, raising money and walking in the Santa Fe Relay for Life.
The annual event benefits the American Cancer Society, and its proceeds are used for cancer research, education and non-profit programs that provide services for cancer patients and survivors.
Trug first attended a Relay for Life event at Wheatridge Middle School after her mom was diagnosed with cancer.
“Before my mom had cancer, I remember driving past Wheatridge and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s neat,’” Trug said. “Later I thought, ‘Wait a minute, this is affecting my life.’ And now I’ll stand up and fight with everyone else.”
Cancer victims and those battling cancer are honored by a candle-lit luminaria ceremony during the event. That first year, Trug’s mom, Pam Barnhart, received a luminaria in honor of her fight.
In following years, Relay participants honored Barnhart with a luminary in memoriam. The words“In memoriam” describing her mother were tough for Trug to hear the first time.
“I remember bawling over two little words,” she said.
The Luminaria Ceremony is a favorite moment at the relay for event chair Kiley Weston of Gardner. Weston got involved with the annual event 14 years ago after her grandmother battled cancer.
“It’s just an awe-inspiring event,” Weston said. “Everybody has been touched by cancer and this is just an event to get everyone together. Once you’ve seen it, you’re hooked. It’s hard to describe.”
The event takes place at the WMS race track, and Trug said watching cancer survivors –all dressed in purple t-shirts — take a lap to start things off is particularly moving. There will be a large group of survivors on the track. Survivors who’ve survived a year or less are lined up in front. The longer a participant has been a survivor, the further back in the pack they’re placed.
And then the survivors are asked to look back at the people who have beat the disease, Trug explained.
“My 10-year-old daughter, she asked why certain people wore purple shirts. And she said, ‘Mom, people can live after cancer?’” Trug said. “That sends me over the edge. My poor nine-year-old daughter only knew cancer as a death sentence. People can actually beat this disease.”
Trug dreams of a world where every person diagnosed with cancer survives it.
“That’s one of the reasons why I do it. I want this world to be rid of it,” she said. “I would love if somebody said we have a cure for cancer. I would love for my kids to grow up in a world that is cancer-free like they do with smallpox and polio.”
At press time, there were 38 teams with more than 320 people signed up to participate in the all-night event this weekend. Local Relay teams have raised more than $49,455 so far.
Weston said this year’s goal is $72,000. Weston said the final figures will probably push the local event close to its goal as a silent auction and on-site fundraising will also be done on Friday night.
Trug said every dollar adds up.
“If that little $10 donation I gave to start my team makes a difference, then amen,” Trug said. “If someone wants to join my team and be around people and walk, that’s great. If you just need to be there, come out.”
Teams will start setting up camp sites around the WMS track on Friday afternoon. The actual event starts at 6 p.m. on July 9 and runs through 6 a.m. on July 10.
For more information, or to donate, visit the website at http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=23808&pg=entry