Relay for Life restarts in Tucumcari

By Kevin Wilson: Quay County Sun

Marylou Damsel had already traveled 730 miles to get to Tucumcari’s Relay for Life, so a lap around Damon Kvols Park didn’t seem like all that much.

Damsel and her two sisters made a special trip from Henderson, Nev., to their new home in Tucumcari to take part in Relay for Life, an annual fund-raising event by the American Cancer Society.

The event had not been in Tucumcari for a few years, but made its return in front of the campus of Tucumcari High School with Damsel and about 50 other participants dedicated to walking throughout the night to raise money for cancer research.

Relay for Life holds special meaning for Damsel and her two sisters, Christian Loeb and Susannah Walker. Damsel wore a purple shirt, designating her as a survivor. Damsel survived ovarian cancer and uterine cancer, but lost two sisters and an uncle to cancer.

Damsel and other cancer survivors are an important component of Relay for Life, according to ACS Community Relationship Manager Abby Cruz.

“Relay is supposed to be about hope,” Cruz said. “Quay County is an area that has been touched by cancer.”

Tucumcari is one of four Relay for Life events Cruz oversees. Other events include relays at Santa Rosa, Moriarty and the University of New Mexico. The sizes of each event will vary, but Cruz said each one is important.

“This event, small or big, we’re trying to make a difference,” Cruz said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Joe Ike Dominguez, who would run a lap, take a small break, then run another lap — despite being admittedly out of shape. As he tried to regain his breath following the second run around the park, Dominguez said it was worth it because cancer research helped his wife Mary survive breast cancer.

“I just appreciate that my wife is still alive — 17 years, cancer free.”

Dominguez said he has also gone to Relay for Life events in Denver, with 70,000 people taking part. Regardless of the size of the event, he was happy to see the community where he was born and raised have its own.

“In my opinion, it means the same thing,” Dominguez said while prepping for another run. “It all goes to the same thing, cancer research.”

From the lifetime Tucumcari resident to the newest residents, the participants were enjoying the event.

“I think it’s excellent,” Damsel said. “I’m surprised by the turnout. I’m proud of the group and it hopefully will continue to grow. I want to be a part of it for a long time.”

Damsel has lived in Henderson for 30 years. Every few years, she would come through Tucumcari on the way to visit friends in Oklahoma. On each trip, she would buy cheese from the Tucumcari Cheese Factory and she “fell in love” with the city.

“I love small towns, and Henderson was a small town when we moved there. Now it’s over 240,000 people.”

Damsel took out a subscription to the Quay County Sun to be mailed to her home in Henderson and bought a house listed through the classified advertising section. She read about the Relay for Life and Relay Chair Joseph Marroquin said Damsel called him nearly every day about the event and planned a moving trip around the fund-raiser.

With participants like that, Marroquin is optimistic for future years.

“I think it’s doing OK this time. Next year, we will have a better crowd.”

Marroquin said the most difficult thing about starting the event was just getting people involved. After that, it’s easy.

“Once they’re here,” Marroquin said, “everyone’s having fun and laughing, talking and visiting.”

The relay was scheduled to continue until 10 a.m. this morning.