By Susan Schell

Pilot Staff Writer

The American Cancer Society wrapped up its fifth annual Relay for Life benefit Saturday at Brookings-Harbor High School.

Bankus Field was transformed into a mini-campground as tents sprang up to shelter the teams that gathered to spend the night taking turns walking around the track.

Participants formed 47 teams for Relay Roundup 2002 and solicited local sponsors to raise money for cancer research. Many of the walkers were cancer survivors themselves, others had lost friends and family to the disease.

The all-night ceremony featured live music, games and contests. The Coastal Physical Therapy team won the best costume contest for their cowboy outfits. The Umpqua Bank team won the best campsite contest for their Native American camp theme.

The event chair, Leanne McCurley, organized the relay in Brookings five years ago shortly after losing her husband to cancer. She said each year the community gets more involved in the event.

andquot;There are a lot of new teams this year,andquot; she said. andquot;There's a lot of community spirit. I think the more people are touched by cancer, the more people will become aware.andquot;

McCurley said the first year she joined the committee for the relay, she andquot;was hooked.andquot;

andquot;When you walk the track you meet and talk to cancer survivors. It's a family affair, there's no drugs or alcohol. It's just good, clean fun.andquot;

Allen Broud, who works for the American Cancer Society in Medford, joined the Brookings relay committee this year. His mother died of lung cancer when he was 17 and his dad is fighting colon cancer.

andquot;This is my first year. I just took over Brookings and I'm expecting to have a great time,andquot; Broud said Friday night.

andquot;Between the committee, the team captains and the participants, they've done so much. It's very special to honor the (cancer) survivors. With the advances we have had in research there are more and more survivors. It's nice to see a community pull together like this for a cause that's so important.andquot;

The event sponsor chairman, Ken Alldritt, said he has been involved with the relay for three years, but this was his first year on the committee.

andquot;I live near the high school and that first year when I drove by and saw the luminaries I thought 'I have to get involved.'andquot;

The luminaries, small wax paper bags that hold a single votive candle, were purchased by the participants and placed on the ground in a long line encircling the football field. Each bag bore the name of someone who had lost their battle with cancer.

Volunteers lit each candle and after dark the stadium lights were shut off. Every person was given a candle to light their way as they walked around the track in the glow of the luminaries.

On Saturday, the crowd had thinned out quite a bit, but a fair amount of troopers stuck around for one last lap around the track to close out the noontime ceremony.

Susan Brickley and her daughters, Rebecca and Ryan Brickley, were among the toughies; they stuck around for their team the Chetco Pelican Players. The Brickleys are four-year veterans of the Relay for Life event.

The team captain, 12-year-old Rebecca, said she had a lot of fun, but was very tired. andquot;I got two hours of glorious sleep,andquot; she moaned. andquot;I don't normally sleep at these things, but last night I just had to.andquot;

andquot;I'm not really tired,andquot; said her sister, 10-year-old Ryan. andquot;I got lots of sleep. My instincts tell me when to sleep.andquot;

Susan helped place flowers in the luminary bags that morning.

andquot;This is one thing I've done every year,andquot; she said.

andquot;The candles give the luminaries such life, when they burn out they look empty. We put the flowers in the bags so they're still something beautiful and not lifeless.

andquot;At about 7 this morning, there were still about 10 candles burning from last night.andquot;

The event raised over $48,000 for the continuing fight to find a cure for cancer.