New co-chairs Rhonda and Don Judson hope to recruit more helpers at Thursday's kickoff meeting

Five months from now Woodburn’s Centennial Park will be transformed into a place of celebration and hope as hundreds gather for the annual Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society overnight fundraising FILE PHOTO - The Woodburn Area Relay for Life event will once again be at Centennial Park. The new co-chairs are looking for new ideas but will keep the Luminaria Ceremony, pictured here at last year's event.

Team participation was down last year and that is one thing co-chairs Rhonda and Don Judson hope to remedy. Planning and team signups begin Thursday at the Relay for Life kickoff party being held at 6 p.m. in the Woodburn Health Center.

“We’re going to be doing some things a little bit different,” Rhonda Judson said about the kickoff party. “We’re going to be asking people to help plan the Relay.”

Although this marks the 12th year the event has been staged in Woodburn, it’s only the second year it will be located in the park. Last year there were many changes to the event, including the venue, which moved from the Woodburn High School track to Centennial Park.

“We want to get feedback on how people felt about the changes, what they would like to see happen and suggestions about what could be done differently and what should stay the same,” Judson said.

This year’s Relay will begin July 11 in Centennial Park at 6 p.m. and continue through the night until noon the following day. Team participants raise money for the American Cancer Society and take turns walking the park trail. The event includes music, food and activities.

Judson said there are several features of last year’s event they will keep, including the Luminaria Ceremony. This ceremony honors both people who have survived cancer and those who have passed away with illuminated bags lining the walking trail. Judson would also like to try a hot air balloon event called Night Glow again. Last year’s Night Glow was hampered by strong winds, which allowed only one of five balloons to launch. Judson added that several of the bands and vendors who were at last year’s event have already committed to come back.

In 2013, Woodburn’s Relay for Life event exceeded the $75,000 fundraising goal by raising more than $76,500, with 35 participating teams. Judson said they haven’t set a fundraising goal for this year, but would like to see an increase in the number of participating teams. In prior years there have been more than 50 teams, she said.

“We’re hoping to get more teams, more participants and more survivors,” she said. “We’d like to build that back up again.”

Judson, a Woodburn resident and cancer survivor, has been an active Woodburn Relay for Life volunteer since its beginning in 2002. Judson said she and Don recently retired and hadn’t intended to take on the major responsibility of chairing the event. However, when Judson found out that her aunt was recently diagnosed with cancer, she took it as a sign to get more involved.

Since its 1985 inception in Tacoma, Wash., Relay for Life has grown into an annual worldwide event raising money to help fight cancer.

Find out more about Woodburn’s event at

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