Local skiers gathered Wednesday night for “StarLight StarBright: A Winter Solstice Ski Event,” a fundraiser with all proceeds donated to Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.
At 6:30 p.m., dozens of skiers clad in their winter best took off down trails at the Kenai Golf Course, most wearing headlamps to see in the dark of night. Coffee, cocoa and cookies waited for them at the trail’s conclusion.
Organizer Johna Beech has a long history with both the Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. She said she’s the event lead for the Kenai Peninsula’s Relay for Life and has volunteered with the society for nearly 14 years — now holding a board seat for the Alaska Advisory Board and serving as a state lead ambassador for the society’s advocacy side.
The cause holds a very personal meaning as well, as Beech has lost family members to cancer.
“The sad thing is, I’m not the only one that has that story,” she said. “It’s something that everyone is affected by; it’s something that everyone is passionate about.”
That is why, she said, so many people bundled up Wednesday night and got out to support the organizations. She credited a team of volunteers: Brenda, Krista, Amy, Alana, Julie, Shawn and Lauri with making the event happen.
“We need to do it. It’s a calling of ours,” she said. “We show up and we make things happen and we raise money and hopefully we move the needle a little closer to finding a cure.”
This is the second year of StarLight StarBright, which Beech explained was started to fill a large hole in the Relay for Life programming — before the summers were busy, but “pretty quiet in the winter.”
The solstice was chosen because of Relay for Life messaging — that nighttime is the hardest time for cancer patients undergoing treatment.
“They’re sick and tired, and they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Beech said. “As the new day comes, new hope arrives.”
Last year, Beech said, around 150 people showed up and raised around $2,000.
“I think we’re gonna at least match what we did last year.”
This year’s event was nearly called off because of the frigid temperatures experienced on the central peninsula for the last several days.
“I was eyeballing all last week,” Beech said. “Made the decision that if it was below zero we would just go ahead and cancel.”
Temperatures were holding around 14 degrees at the golf course at the start of the event.
For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit cancer.org. Patients or caregivers can call the society’s help line at 1-800-227-2345 for assistance 24/7.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.