WEEKEND: Prostate Cancer walkathon set for Saturday

PORT ANGELES — It’s time for the Port Angeles Walkathon for Prostate Cancer.

Event organizer Gary Johnson said the second annual fundraiser for the Prostate Cancer Foundation will be bigger and better than last year’s inaugural event.

The 18-hour walkathon will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Clallam County Fairgrounds in west Port Angeles.

Cancer survivors and their supporters will walk around the track until 10 a.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds, 1608 W. 16th St., next to Lincoln Park and the William R. Fairchild International Airport.

The relay-style walkathon is modeled after Relay For Life, a well-established national fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

In both events, participants and relay teams either collect sponsorships through per-lap pledges or flat donations — or raise money through other special events — and hit the track for an all-day, all-night relay.

The relay is highlighted by an opening “survivors’ lap” and “luminaria ceremony” in remembrance of those who lost their battle with cancer.

All proceeds from the walkathon will benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Johnson said.

Helicopter fly-over

Johnson organized a Coast Guard helicopter fly-over to follow the singing of the national anthem by Teresa Pierce.

Local bagpiper Tom McCurdy will join a Coast Guard color guard to lead the survivors’ lap, which is open to anyone battling any kind of cancer.

“We support all survivors because cancer’s cancer,” Johnson said.

“It’s more meaningful that way. It just makes a more powerful statement.”

The $25 entry fee comes with a spaghetti dinner, a breakfast provided by the Port Angeles Lions Club and a T-shirt while supplies last.

The event is free to spectators.

Johnson, a retired employee of the Port Angeles Safeway on Lincoln Street, lost his best friend to cancer when they were attending Port Angeles High School in the mid-1970s.

Johnson’s wife, Dana, is a cancer survivor.

With Safeway’s support, Johnson took the initiative to organize the first prostate cancer walkathon at Port Angeles High School last June, which raised $11,000 for the cause.

Although he suffered a mild stroke in November, Johnson and his former co-worker Doug Bienz and high school classmate Martin Shaughnessy doubled their efforts to make the second walkathon a larger success than the first one.

Larger venue, local bands

In addition to moving the event to a larger venue, Johnson arranged for several local bands to perform at the fairground stage.

Among the headliners is Mister Sister, which will perform from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., with six finalists in a 6 p.m. karaoke contest.

Contestants can enter the karaoke contest for a $15 fee, two-thirds of which will go toward the Prostate Cancer Foundation, with $5 going to a pool.

Like Relay For Life, the Port Angeles Walkathon for Prostate Cancer will feature a luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m.

Candles will be lighted inside sand-filled bags surrounding the track with the name of someone who lost their battle with cancer.

The festivities will run well into the night with line dancing, games and more karaoke.

Port Angeles sprint boat racer Dan Morrison will sign autographs at a tent featuring videos of the sprint boat races at the Extreme Sports Park, Johnson said.

Food vendors, including Big Horn BBQ & Grill, will serve pulled pork, ribs and other fare.

The walkathon collected 45 business sponsors this year. Last year’s event had 23 sponsors.

“I’m really excited,” Johnson said Tuesday. “It’s all for a great cause.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rob.ollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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