It was too early in the morning for Shelley Sprouffske to tear up.
The captain of Connolly’s Crew had a crack in her voice as she named off those near and dear who had been lost to cancer, including her mother-in-law and her husband’s boss.
Even her father was diagnosed with cancer in 2010.
She was helping set up the 24th annual Relay for Life event Friday morning at Timberline High School — an event she looks forward to every year.
It’s also a somber reminder of what’s at stake.
“I am not ready to cry this early in the morning,” Sprouffske said. “My husband lost both of his parents by the time he was 22 — they don’t know us, they don’t know us or our three little kids, all under four years old.”
More than 70 teams, totalling more than 970 participants, had signed up for the 24-hour event that kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday.
About $237,000 had been raised by the Thurston County relay, almost $40,000 more than was raised at this point last year. The overall goal is to raise $350,000 by 6 p.m. Saturday.
The event raised about $315,000 last year.
A cancer researcher was brought to the track to help start the race, a first for the Thurston County relay.
“We will hear him speak, and he will be available to talk after the opening ceremonies,” Dawn Gadwa said. “There are also lots of activities for teens that we have never done before and a silent auction.”
The relay takes a lot of preparation, which is why Sprouffske was at the field so early Friday morning.
Relay for Life inherited a whole new purpose for her team, sponsored by Connolly Tacon & Meserve law firm of Olympia, when senior partner Jim Connolly died from kidney cancer in 2010.
“We have bounced back, but you turn around and it feels like everyone has someone else who has been diagnosed,” Sprouffske said. “It’s an incredible way for us to fight.”
The group consistently has been the top relay team and has a goal of $60,000 this year.
It’s a significant event for Sprouffske’s family. All three of her boys participate in Relay for Life.
It also helps her hold back tears – even manage to get a few smiles in.
“The year I had morning sickness in the porta-potty with the temperatures in the ’90s was not my favorite year,” she said with a laugh.