Alice Knighten has been here before. She's no stranger to the color purple, the luminary bags scrawled with the names of those fighting and those who have lost, or the laps around the field through the night. She's been here before.
She's been in the hospital bed, the MRI machine. She's been across from the doctor giving her the news. Again. And again. She's been to the hilltop of recovery and the valley of remission. Tonight, she's at Bohemia Park.
Her red hat is a giveaway. It matches her scarf and the pin fastened on top warns she's not only a diva, but a fierce one. Her Red Hat Society is accustomed to wearing purple but tonight, it's for a different reason. Knighten joins a dozen others who don the purple shirts as cancer survivors during the Relay for Life event held in Cottage Grove on Friday, June 16.
"This is my 20th relay," she said, pointing out the thin incision, hidden by a strip of band aid across her throat. This is her fourth cancer battle.
"I can't walk anymore," she said gesturing to the path meant to accommodate a night full of walkers. She'll be pushed around the path as part of the survivor's lap that opens the event; one she and her friends have raised money for each year.
At the start of Friday's event, Cottage Grove had raised $11,000 for the cause. Part of that was funded by Cottage Grove Mayor Jeff Gowing's hair.
Gowing, who noted the friends and family he has lost to the disease, volunteered to donate his hair. To choose a haircut style, his wife deemed three styles appropriate and pinned them to buckets. Whichever bucket had the most donations in it by the time Candance Solsbee had her scissors ready, was the winner. A Ryan Gosling style was the winner.
Relay for Life was founded in 1985 when surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt set out to raise money for cancer research. To accomplish his goal, he walked around a track in Tacoma, Washington for 24 hours straight, raising $27,000.
Relay is now the largest fundraising event for cancer in the world with more than 4 million people in 20 countries taking part. Each year, Relay hosts more than 3,500 Relay for Life events in parks, high school tracks and community centers.
Relay for Life in Cottage Grove was previously held at Lincoln Middle School to utilize the track but this year marked the event's first time at Bohemia Park. The concrete pathways were marked with chalk arrows to direct walkers and tents with vendors and organizations dotted the grass. The amphitheater provided space for local bands to play through the night. Trivia kept walkers awake and the closing ceremony was held at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning after a few bumps in the road had the event starting nearly 30 minutes late on Friday night.
To donate to the cause, learn more about Relay for Life or how to volunteer, visit relayforlife.org or cancer.org.