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Relay for Life Weekend

This weekend was Nome’s third annual Relay for Life event, 24 hours of walking around the unofficial town square with the KNOM Relay team. But the weekend really started on Friday, when a bunch of the KNOM Relay team came together for a combination auction and bake sale that helped raise over $600 for the fight against cancer.

My Friday began at 6am, when I woke up and started baking. I was rolling out some dough for some cinnamon pull-apart muffins (some have called it “monkey bread” muffins), while new volunteer Josh–don’t worry, you’ll hear from him soon enough on this here blog–helped make some blueberry scones. The scone recipe is a family secret from my grandfather, while the blueberries were all harvested here in Nome, but somewhere along the way I mismatched portions and we ended up with a soupy bowl of blueberry-speckled dough. So the first batch of scones became blueberry muffins! Improvise! Create!

A few trays of muffins later (and after multiple false alarms with the smoke detector … and no, that’s not a joke), I figured out the problem with the scones (too much milk), and so I got a fresh batch of done-right scones, too – just in time for the auction to begin! Like last year, we converted the KNOM garage into a cheerful little enclave of second-hand goodies and first-rate snacks: an exercise bike, a package of classic John Wayne movies, driftwood paintings by local artists, Nome-made clay bowls and dishes, a fancy serving tray with sea glass accents and matching cutlery, and some other odds and ends. Oh, and art! Beautifully framed art that, I suspect, were bid on as much for the frames as for the art. Nearly all the items were donated by members of the KNOM Relay team.

I was able to contribute two items to the auction: one was a poster signed by all the mushers from Iditarod 40. (It was a long but enjoyable process waiting for the mushers to exit the stage at the Iditarod banquet back in March and ask them each to sign the same poster.) The other item was an autographed book of poetry by King Island writer Joan Kane.

Rounding out the bake sale, other members of the KNOM staff brought baked goods from home:  blueberry buckle, banana bread, cookies, muffins, chocolate-covered croissants, and more. We also had a huge cistern of freshly-ground coffee we were giving away for free. “Come for the free coffee, stay for the baked goods and auction.” Laura and Kelly helped “man the garage” while I popped inside to periodically make a fresh batch of scones or muffins. The bidders came in fits and starts, the customers for the baked goods were a slow and steady trickle, and when we closed up shop at 2pm, we had earned over $600.

Then there was the Relay event itself: noon Saturday to noon Sunday. While last year the KNOM team was a little more organized–Matty and I were co-captains, and it was a lot easier to have a great team when two people are putting it all together–we still had a solid lineup for most of the walk. We arrived at Old St. Joe’s Square by noon on Saturday, and after some opening ceremonies and a survivors’ lap, I started walking. Our team took turns all the way through midnight, and though I worked on Sunday (and so bowed out of walking duties to get some sleep), I know that other people picked up the walking again in the early morning hours. That artfully-composed picture at the top of the blog post, by the way, is by KNOM’s own David Dodman.

I do Relay for Life because people in my life – family, friends, and their significant others – have been impacted by cancer. Some of them are still alive and, happy to say, mostly cancer free. Others haven’t been so lucky. But another reason why I do Relay here in Nome is because – as Kristina Proctor said in her blog entry – you need other things in your life in Nome outside the walls of KNOM. I’ve loved my job these past two years, but if that’s all Nome was, a year at KNOM would be very dull indeed.

Whether it’s helping direct a play with the Nome Drama Club, volunteering as an EMT with Nome’s ambulance department, getting involved in a local church, or finding a group of biking buddies: you need to force yourself to keep busy in Nome. Long, cold winters could all too easily devolve into a simple pattern of waking up, walking the 50 feet from the volunteer house to the station, sitting at your desk, and at the end of the day, walking back home. That’s not a life I wanted to live in Nome, and it’s not the kind of life that will give you the energy and passion to do your job well.

Even though I wasn’t as involved with Relay this year as I was last year, it still gave me something to do when the workday was over. And that’s why I do it.