Staff Reporter 

New home for West Plains Relay for Life

Venue changes, noise issues force long-time Cheney event to new digs in Medical Lake


Participants in the 2010 Relay for Life set off down Eastern Washington University’s track for the Survivor Lap. Financial issues forced the Relay to Cheney High School, and now to Medical Lake.

Relay for Life is looking to renew itself in Medical Lake this year.

The event hopes it’s finally found a consistent home at Medical Lake High School after moving around the past couple of years, going from EWU’s Roos Field to Cheney High School in 2012. Relay for Life at Medical Lake High School will take place Friday, May 17 at 6 p.m. and last until 9 a.m. the next day.

Holding the event at its former longtime location of EWU proved to be financially unfeasible, forcing it to find a new home in the West Plains. While the move allows Relay for Life to have a consistent location, event organizer Peter Baltes noted that it has affected turnout.

“It’s not easy to plan this event,” Baltes said.

The typical level of 40 teams signing up for the event have dropped to 22 teams this year. When teams usually have eight to 15 people on them, the total number or registered people for this year has dropped to 125 at the time of publication.

While the majority of the event includes participants on the track throughout the night, there are Jazzercise, Zumba, cake walks, bingo sessions and plenty of other entertainment options throughout the 15-hour night. Among the other fun parts of the evening include a “crazy lap” where participants follow instructions on a card for an entire lap.

Baltes and event organizers hope the move to Medical Lake will encourage more people to stay throughout the night. Last year, the participation rate seemed to drop after a few hours.

“One-third of the participants turned away by midnight last year,” Baltes said.

All money raised by Relay for Life goes toward cancer research and treatment, and it all stays local. An 800 telephone line provides support to cancer survivors and families, those undergoing treatment receive financial support with housing when traveling away.

One of the more solemn moments during the event is the Luminaria ceremony, where participants can light a luminaria bag in remembrance of someone who has passed away from cancer, or who is currently fighting the disease.

“With Relay for Life you can see the difference you’re making. You know you’re making a difference because they’re here,” Baltes said. “They beat cancer.”

There isn’t anyone involved in the event who hasn’t experienced cancer. One-third of those involved in Relay for Life have had cancer, Baltes said, the other two-thirds will know someone who has or had cancer.

“It doesn’t care about age or grace. Cancer is a non-discriminatory disease,” he said.

Included in the cancer fundraisers coming up is a “Zumbathon” hosted by the EWU Athletic Training Club Thursday, April 25. The event is from 6 – 9 p.m. at EWU’s URC ice rink. A $5 donation is suggested for entry, with all funds raised will go toward the American Cancer Society.

Now an international event taking place in 22 countries, Relay for Life started in Tacoma back in 1985.

“I do it because it’s fun,” Baltes said.

For more information, visit the West Plains Relay for Life Facebook page or website.

James Eik can be reached at


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