HANAPEPE — Hundreds of people arrived and nearly 50 encampments were set up at the Hanapepe Stadium soccer fields as the sun set and night descended on the quiet Westside town Saturday.
“This is the very first time Walmart has a team here,” said Pauline Ibia, who was busy tidying up the Walmart camp. “We’re excited about being here.”
Cancer survivors led the way for the first laps around the track, lighted by luminaria, as part of the fundraising Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society event that raises awareness and money for the fight against cancer.
Relay for Life events, which began in the 1980s in the United States, now take place around the world each year.
“We’re here because three of our relatives have cancer,” said one of the campers at the Hanapepe event. “They’re out there walking, and we come to support them.”
Kaimani Dryer, 9, was diagnosed with brain cancer last year. The family of the student at King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School set up a “Stompers” encampment, because the mission is “to stomp out cancer,” family members said.
Dryer’s story inspired students at Kapa‘a Middle School to host the first middle school mini-relay earlier in April. The students raised $1,500.
“The young people are just phenomenal,” Gordon Yee, a longtime American Cancer Society supporter, said about Saturday night’s event. “We have the Key Club, the Junior ROTC from Waimea High School, the Interact Club, the National Honor Society clubs, the Kaua‘i 4-H Livestock Club and more.”
Taryn Dizon and Patti Ornellas co-chaired the 2012 Relay at Hanapepe.
Organizing committee members were Sarah Styan, Cammy Ariola-Moku, Dr. Aileen Denny, Rowena Tachibana, Sharon Kelekoma, Laurie Tateishi, Jade Battad, Dale Matsuura, Nalani Brun, Melissia Sugai, Naylene Aki, Kahanu Smith, Diann Hartman, Bernie Sakoda, Janice Vaughn, Wanda Shibata, Teresa Caires and Tamara Akau.
Registration and donations for the Relay for Life event in Hanalei are now being accepted through the Relay for Life website.
The Hanalei Relay for Life will start at 6 p.m. on June 16 at Waioli Park in Hanalei.
Visit www.relayforlife.org for more information.