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Reston Relay Goes Retro

Relay for Life gears up in Reston.

"Victoria Reid led by example," said Wayne Schiffelbein, a participant at Reston's Relay for Life for many years, "she never missed an opportunity to educate how to live after cancer.”

Schiffelbein met Reid in 1999, after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She inspired her friends and associates to form a team, The Grateful Living, to participate in the Relay for Life, an event to raise money for the American Cancer Society's fight against cancer. Reid passed away in June of last year. Schiffelbein urged the residents of the community to "follow Victoria's example," and participate in the good cause.

The Relay For Life will celebrate its 20th birthday this year. The Reston community will have a chance to participate on May 21 and 22, at South Lakes High School. Since its inception, the Reston Relay has raised more than $2.3 million for the American Cancer Society. In 2004, more than 3,500 Relay For Life events were held nationwide, raising more than $300 million, $2 million of which was raised in the National Capital region. The money raised in the relays is committed to cancer research, education and patient services.

DONORS WILL BE ABLE to make contributions for Reston's Relay over the Internet this year. Joanne Poesch, the chair of the event, said there is a real focus to promote online donations this year. The event's Web site, www.restonrelay.org, is set up to allow people to register teams for the walk and make donations. Money can be donated to a team or a team member, by searching for the team's or individual's name on the Web site. General donations to the event can also be made through the same Web site.

"If you've been to one of these things," said Ron Sherman, a participant since 1994, "you fall in love with it and can't help but volunteer all of your free time for it."

The kickoff celebration for the Relay took place Tuesday, Jan. 25, at South Lakes High School. Poesch said the goal is to raise $450,000 during this year's relay. Last year the event raised $420,000, making it the top relay in the National Capital area. Poesch also said she would like to see 150 teams participate in this year's relay, an increase of 30 teams from last year's event.

Sherman said he was encouraged by a large turnout of people at the kickoff celebration, despite the dicey weather. There were 50 team captains and 85 individuals signed up for the event at the kickoff. Sherman said there is a core of people who can be counted on for contributions, which includes corporations as well as individuals and teams. Sandy Amato, a member of the planning committee, encouraged all three levels of participants to get involved in the fund-raising efforts.

AMATO, JOINED BY Kelly Hay and Andy Keninitz, also on the planning committee, said individuals should raise money by sending out letters to their friends, family and co-workers. Since donations can be made via the Internet this year, the individuals can promote the Web site and encourage donations through it. Teams are encouraged to hold fund-raising events, such as bake sales and going out to the community to raise money. Purple bracelets, similar to the popular "Livestrong" yellow bracelets promoted by Lance Armstrong, will be available for sale as well. Individuals working for large corporations are encouraged to start office teams, and ask the corporation to match the funds raised by the corporation's teams. The teams are usually eight to 15 people strong.

The Reston Community Center (RCC) is in its fourth year of involvement with the Reston Relay. "It is definitely a worthwhile cause," said Haywood Hopson, the director of special events at the RCC. He said it was a celebration of sorts, but also a sensitive event, as those lost to cancer are remembered, and the survivors are honored. However, he added, the day of the Relay is a lot of fun, where people come out and celebrate together throughout the night.

This year's Reston Relay is a "Retro" themed event. The music and the games at the event will feature entertainment from the 1980s, and the participants are encouraged to wear clothes worn in the 1980s. The first team captain's meeting for the Reston Relay will take place Feb. 17. Visit the event Web site, or contact Shari True at the American Cancer Society at 703-938-5550, or e-mail her at shari.true@cancer.org.