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Step by Step

June 25, 2009
Sarah Ruppenthal

How far would you go to save a life? If you could make a difference in the life of someone touched by cancer simply by walking a few miles, would you do it? On Saturday, June 20, that is exactly what hundreds of Maui County residents did when they laced up their walking shoes for the 2009 Central Maui Relay For Life held at the War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku.

For 25 years, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life fundraiser has mobilized 3.5 million people in an effort to “fight back” against cancer. And last weekend, I witnessed Maui’s steadfast determination to continue fighting back—until there is a cure.

In one night, these dedicated individuals raised thousand of dollars for cancer research, advocacy and support programs by forgoing the comforts of home to spend a night under the bright lights of War Memorial Stadium.

Just a few days before the event, a friend asked me, “I don’t get it… what’s the point? Walking around in circles isn’t going to change anything.” Perhaps it was a fair question, but if my friend had joined us that night, she would have likely seen the answer right before her own eyes.

Sure, a few laps around the stadium may not lead to a miracle; however, it is a reflection of our commitment to the purpose and intent of Relay For Life—to create a world without cancer. In 12 hours, relay participants exhibited the will, strength and commitment to move forward,  and with each step, they honored the lives of those who have won—or lost—the battle against cancer. It was an inspiring display of solidarity that demonstrated the power of human compassion and the resolve of an entire community.

But if this sounds like it was a somber occasion, think again. Throughout the night, relay teams were encouraged to keep walking with live music, rousing taiko drumming performances, food, dancing and activities. While some took breaks to “power nap” inside tents, others refueled with a late night cup of coffee and conversation before taking another lap around the track. From dusk until dawn, Relay For Life team members walked, jogged or ran around the stadium until they reached the “finish line” early Sunday morning—without the promise of a trophy, cash prize or fanfare.

Mahalo to all of the Relay For Life participants and a big mahalo to those who donated to these events. You are an inspiration to us all. So, to answer my friend’s question: Why do we walk? We walk for hope. And next year, I hope you will join the fundraiser.

Maui Relay For Life events will take place on Saturday, July 11, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the Kenolio Recreation Complex, and Saturday, July 25, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at the Lahaina Recreational Center Field II. To make a donation, register to walk or join a team, visit



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