Local Relay for Life raises more than $84,000

Christine Sizemore, a junior at Tahoma High School, walks during the Relay for Life of Black Diamond, Covington and Maple Valley event at Tahoma High School on June 7 and 8. - Dennis Box
Christine Sizemore, a junior at Tahoma High School, walks during the Relay for Life of Black Diamond, Covington and Maple Valley event at Tahoma High School on June 7 and 8.
— image credit: Dennis Box

It took just one year of Relay for Life to hook the Leverton family.

In support of Marty Leverton, a Renton police officer who was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer in July of 2012, Marty’s wife, Jennifer, and two children helped take this year’s local cause to new places.

Close to 1,000 people attended the Relay for Life of Black Diamond, Covington and Maple Valley at the Tahoma High School on June 7th and 8th, according to Jennifer Leverton, co-chair of the event.

A total of 54 teams with 414 registered participants lined the track to “celebrate, remember and fight back against cancer.” Sixty survivors registered and walked the opening survivor lap. The Relay missed its goal of raising $100,000 but collected more than $84,000 for the American Cancer Society.

“I’m exhausted but it went really well,” Jennifer Leverton said.

After first taking part in the event in 2013, Jennifer said last year’s organizers saw how much passion and support she brought to the event and gave her increased responsibility.

“I was very surprised,” Jennifer said. “Last year being our first year, Team Marty grew so big… we had 52 people my first year… It was fun for me and something to do and get my mind off what was going on and still be involved in some way.”

Relay For Life is a worldwide fundraising event held by the American Cancer Society that started in 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash. to raise money for the health organization. It’s since grown dramatically. More than 4 million cancer survivors, friends and family take part in the overnight event each year, with the goal of keeping at least one team member walking at all times throughout the evening. Teams do most of the fundraising prior to the event, but some also hold creative fundraisers at their campsites during Relay. The Relay season doesn’t officially end until Aug. 31.

Jennifer is certainly not alone in her enthusiasm for the event — around the community or even in her own home.

Amy Leverton, Marty’s 7-year-old daughter, led Team-Marty Juniors. Amy is believed to be the local relay’s youngest ever “Grand club” member, after raising more than $1,000 by herself.

Amy taped flyers on every door in the neighborhood and asked for donations everywhere she went, Jennifer said. Amy’s sponsors included sprinkles of $5 from grandma, $15 from Jersey Mike’s customer donations, $78 lemonade stand earnings and $663 from Outpatient Physical Therapy.

“Marty is my Dad and I relay for him because he has cancer,” Amy wrote on her personal Relay for Life page. “My Dad is a nice policeman and helps people every day. I am proud of my dad because he works hard and plays with me a lot… I want to help the American Cancer Society because right now there is no cure for my dad’s cancer but they are working hard to find one.”

Team-Marty Juniors consisted of nine 5-to-13-year-olds recruited from the neighborhood who together raised more than $2,400. That also includes Lane, Marty’s 5-year-old son, who  has chipped in $253 worth of donations.

“They just find a way to help,” said Jennifer, who’s sister is also battling cancer. “It’s amazing.”

Janet Swisher, of Covington, is a two time cancer survivor who lost both parents to the disease, raised more than $2,700 prior to this year’s event. Swisher is a former co-chair of the event and participated for the fourth time. She has found it to be a “constructive and tangible” way to fight back.

“It’s been a big monster we’ve had to deal with in our family,” said Swisher, who is now cancer free. “I’m pretty lucky compared to a lot of people I’ve known who have had to deal with the disease.”


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