Hilmar resident Kelly Fultz-Von Aspern never again wants someone she loves to say the words “I have cancer.” Eight months ago her sister, Erica Fultz-Summers, lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving a grieving husband, two children and extended family.
Ever since Erica’s diagnosis three years ago, Kelly has been doing what she can to spread the word about early detection and treatment of breast cancer. She walked alongside her sister in the Susan G. Komen three-day, 60 mile walk for the cure two years ago. After Erica’s death, Kelly joined friends and family to form the Alaskan Angels Relay for Life team in honor of Erica. (The team was named in reference to Erica’s adopted state. While being raised in Hilmar, she moved to Alaska after getting married.)
Kelly is now bringing the Relay for Life event — an overnight relay-style walk that aims to raise awareness of cancer, support cancer survivors, remember those lost to cancer and raise funds for the American Cancer Society —to her hometown of Hilmar.
“I got involved with Relay for Life as an outlet for me to help other people and help me deal with losing my sister,” Kelly said. “I walk because I can’t walk away.”
Kelly said she decided to organize Hilmar’s first Relay for Life event because she wanted to reach out to local residents who have been touched by cancer.
“Once you’re (at a Relay for Life event) it feels like family. Everyone’s there for one common goal,” she said.
One of the first things Kelly did after deciding to organize a Relay for Life event in Hilmar was to enlist the help of friend and fellow Alaskan Angels teammate, Trina Walley. The two then headed to Garden Grove in Southern California for a Relay for Life conference held last weekend.
“We literally had 24 hours to make a decision to register for the summit,” Walley said.
Once there, the duo was quickly taken in by fellow Relay for Life organizers from around the state.
“The Relay for Life culture is like a big family. There were 900 people at the summit from across California and they all shared their ideas,” Walley said.
The Hilmar Relay for Life event is rapidly picking up steam. The details of the exact date and place of the event will be coming in the next few weeks, but Kelly said they are aiming for May 5, 2012. While the relay is still eight months away, there is much work to do in the meantime.
“We have to find committee people to help get the website up, and work on team development,” Kelly said.
Hilmar residents will also be seeing a lot more of the color purple — the official color of Relay for Life —in the next few months as the committee begins a campaign to let people know about the inaugural event, Walley said.
Those interested in being involved in the Hilmar Relay for Life Committee can contact Kelly Fultz-Von Aspern at 602-2427 or Trina Walley at 216-7791.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.