A walk in the wee hours 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea

Night-time volunteers Suni Davis, right, and Colby Richards, greet walkers at 1:40 a.m. during Relay For Life.

By KIRBY NEUMANN-REA

News editor

July 23, 2005

“Stay awake, Marker Boy.”

Suni Davis jostles Colby Richardson alongside the track at Hood River Valley High School track.

Colby marks off N-24 from the master chart used in Lap Bingo, playfully elbows Suni — “Numbers Girl,” and wraps his down parka tighter.

Nicknames sink in fast in the middle of the night. It is July 18, 1:05 a.m.

Suni, Colby, and their friend Anna Hidle (“Just call me ‘Sleepy’,”) sit by lantern light on a table strewn with the candies that are rewards for walkers in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life.

“This helps keep ’em going,” says Anna. “Keeps ’em moving around the track.”

Every few minutes, “Number Girl” draws a ball from a miniature Bingo hopper and “Marker Boy” records it. Walkers complete their lap and check in. Whether or not they have the number, they still get a piece of candy.

“Okay, give us the next number,” walker Tony White says as he approaches the bingo table. No new score on his three-by-three card. He selects a Jolly Rancher.

“I know how many laps I’ve done by the number of candy wrappers in my pocket,” says White, a Hood River insurance agent.

White walks for Granny’s Gang and Kevin, Too, a close-knit team that participates every year in the 24-hour fund-raiser. Kevin refers to his son, Kevin, who died of cancer in 1991. Tony himself is a kidney cancer survivor. The 1 a.m. shift is one of two Tony takes during the relay. He likes the quiet of the wee hours walk.

What stands out at night, besides the chattering of nearby sprinklers and the hushed conversations from within the tents and shelters on the field, are the lights.

There are the pale-blue squares from cell phones walkers hold up to make a call, check Instant Messages, or perhaps the latest Major League baseball scores.

There are the luminescent necklaces worn by people such as Pauline Smith of the team from Dr. Kyle House’s dentistry office.

But mostly, there are the luminaria.

These candle-lit paper bags line the inside of the track, as symbols of what the walk is all about. Each bears the name of someone who has died of cancer, someone who has survived, or someone recently diagnosed. “Papa Jack,” reads one. Another bears a peace sign, another a flower. “We miss you,” read many.

They are lit in a ceremony shortly after dark, and create a guiding path for anyone up and around at Relay For Life.

Most years, by 1 a.m. the luminaria are a patchwork of bright lights, flickering ones, or darkened candles. Not that any luminary loses its emotional power if the candle goes out, but to see them all lit is a sobering and uplifting thing.

This year, at 1:30 a.m., all but a few of the 400 or so luminaria remain bright beacons.

Another light source is turned off this year; the Relay For Life committee opted not to turn on the scoreboard. In the past, the bright running clock flooded the south end of the field. The clock created a certain comfort, but it was bright for those trying to sleep at that end.

In 2005, the stamina of the luminaria made up for it.

“Those luminaries really make you think,” Tony White says on the ninth lap of the hour, at about 1:50 a.m. He walks the last half of the lap in silence. Then Marker Boy, Numbers Girl and Sleepy come into view, with their bright lantern.

“Okay, I know I’ve got a winner this lap,” Tony says, pulling out his card.

“Want to hear the next number?” Suni says.

“We’re due for a winner. Tell us it’s I-46,” Tony jokes.

“Nope — there’s about six of you waiting for that one.”

Tony smiles and says, “I guess I’ll just have to take a treat,” and selects another piece of candy before setting off along the cordon of luminaria.

Hope is as simple as a Tootsie Roll and as long as a string of lights.

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Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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