Celine Dion's hit "I'm Alive" blared through the loud speakers during the survivor victory lap Friday night at Umatilla County Fairgrounds.

The event was part of the 18-hour Hermiston Relay for Life "Give a Night for the Fight."

Nearly two dozen teams of 15-25 people walked throughout the night and into Saturday morning during the fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.

Bud Rich Potato Inc. won the best costume contest and Union Pacific Railroad won the best campsite.

Louise Johnson whooped and hollered and raised her fist in triumph as she participated in the survivor lap along with about 75 other cancer survivors.

Johnson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2002, counts her blessings.

"I was one of the lucky ones," she said. "It got caught quite early."

She had a lumpectomy and was treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

"I wasn't worried about it. I thought, 'It's not going to get me.' "

Johnson said the energy and camaraderie among survivors and others fighting to eradicate the deadly disease is infectious.

"Together, we can make a difference," she said.

The event began with a torch relay from City Hall. Rae Asbell, the event's first grand marshal, and other cancer survivors carried the flame of hope to the fairgrounds. Once at the gate, they handed it off to grand marshals Dr. Marvin John, Mark Parsons and Hannah Davison. They lit the cauldron, which burned until the closing ceremonies Saturday at noon.

Co-chair Laura Clark was overwhelmed with emotion during the initial introductions.

"This is awesome," she said.

Parsons said the number of cancer-related deaths is declining.

Several of co-chair Carla Sebastian's family members have died from cancer and her grandmother, who has colon cancer, likely just has 2-8 weeks to live.

"It's all over my family," Sebastian said. "For me, it's not if, but when."

Tiffanie Piper of the Angels of Hope team relaxed in the shade. The Hermiston woman and 15-20 family and friends have made participating in Relay for Life an annual event.

Dressed in prom dresses and tuxedos, the group, sponsored by Tom Denchel Ford Country, presented the theme of "A Night to Remember."

In Thompson Hall, they sponsored a DJ dance and were taking prom photos to raise money.

Both of Piper's grandfathers died of lung cancer within a month of each other. She lost one grandmother and another is battling breast cancer.

"Those are the ones I walk for," she said.

The Demil Dragons team had an Asian-theme, complete with a Chinese dragon they used during the team lap.

Jennie Murdock said their group included about 25 people.

"We're selling "Cancer Sucks" T-shirts because cancer sucks," she said.

The luminaria ceremony lit up the fairgrounds as hundreds of bags lined the walkway. The names of those who have lost the battle to cancer and survivors were read.

"Pete's Posse received the luminaria award," publicity chairwoman Linda Schultz said. "They should have won more - They really participated a lot. They were walking all night."

The team sold 78 luminaria.

Schultz said $83,000 was raised during the event and money still is coming in.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.