Highlands Ranch/Lone Tree Relay readies for kickoff

Cancer society turns 100, local event celebrates 15th year

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To throw a successful birthday bash, a little planning is required.

That’s no secret to the organizers of the Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree Relay for Life, who are already in the midst of planning for the 15th annual HR/LT Relay on July 26 — in the same year the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday.

To get the word out and start signing up teams for this year’s event at Cresthill Middle School, the Relay crew is throwing a kickoff party from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Highlands Ranch Golf Club, 9000 Creekside Way in Highlands Ranch.

The party will provide attendees and survivors with a chance to learn about the history of Relay, gather information on sponsorship opportunities and register. There will be free luminarias for those in attendance, a historical video on ACS and a rolling slide show of photos from past Relays in Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree.

Phyllis Danenhauer and her daughter Kari Larese, both cancer survivors, are responsible for organizing the kickoff, but it was Larese’s 10-year-old son, Ryan Larese, who got the whole family involved in Relay last year.

“I just kind of thought that cancer in a lot of ways is overlooked,” said Ryan, who is heading up a youth committee with his brother Jordan, 9, this year in an attempt to get a more youthful presence at the event. “A lot of people don’t realize how bad cancer can be. They look at survivors and say, ‘oh, they are just one of many,’ but there’s probably twice as many people who have died from cancer.”

For Ryan, it was an emotional experience watching his mother and grandmother walk the survivor lap together at the start of last year’s Relay, but for the 15-year survivors who’d been diagnosed just months apart, it was, and still is, much more.

“When we walked around that track together with the other survivors and all those people were standing all the way around the track cheering us on, that was an overwhelming, amazing experience,” said Danenhauer, a breast cancer survivor.

“It is something we can do together,” Kari Larese added, “something we have both experienced. They were different types of cancer (Larese had melanoma) but we still both experienced cancer and we went through it together both times.

“I think it is something that is much more prevalent than people are aware of and it’s something my kids can learn about and be aware of and educate other people about.”

According to statistics provided by the ACS, one in two men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.

Relay for Life, which began in Tacoma, Wash., in 1986, raises money for ACS to further cancer research and support patients, and also celebrates survivors.

For more information on this year’s Highlands Ranch and Lone Tree Relay or for the Feb. 20 kickoff event, email teams@rflhr-lt.org or visit www.rflhr-lt.org. For more information on event history or the ACS, please visit www.relayforlife.org

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