I can't beleive he is 8!!

We just celebrated Little J’s birthday which means that next weekend must be the Relay for Life in Sugartown.

The first time our family went to Relay we didn’t really know too much about what it was. Our neighbor Heather’s boys were participating with their church’s team. We heard that the boys had made luminaries for Jenn, that there would be a silent “Luminaries lap” after dark when the luminaries were lit, and that they hoped Jenn could come walk around the track and hang out a bit. We drove, eager and full of hope, out to the event, but Jenn was in the thick of treatment at the time. Try as she might, she was not well enough to get out of the car.

The next time our family went though…not only did Jenn participate, she captained the team and Little J led the Luminaries lap. We had all been walking and visiting all day and then we were asked if Little J would do the honor of leading the procession. I remember getting 3/4 of the way around the track and looking back to see the track filled with the people from our community stretching all the way back to the beginning, lit by the luminaries lining the track each with somebody’s name on it. It was silent except for quiet foot steps and occasional sniffles and out front leading the way was an exhausted Little J holding his torch high. Marching on. The whole twenty-four hours was an amazing and moving experience.

Last year’s Relay was hard. It was an amazing experience that would have made Jennifer so proud. We had so many people that wanted to be on Team Sugartown that we ended up with multiple Sugartown teams. Heather and Kandi took the reins as captain. Little J logged an impressive one hundred laps (which does not account for all of time he spent running around with friends and climbing the surrounding hills). He was so upset with me when I made him lay down in the tent at 2 AM. He insisted that he was still good to go right up until he fell asleep. But he was back on the track when he woke at 7:00.

This year, in true Sugartown fashion, friends, family, and neighbors are getting together to walk again and keep up the fight against cancer. For twenty-four hours we will walk in loving memory, in celebration, in defiance, but most importantly in hope.

Our team’s theme this year is Four Seeds: Love, Beauty, Renewal, and Inspiration. Love is represented by all of us coming together from as far away as LA to the south and Portland to the north. Beauty will be the plants and flowers that we will have around our camp (and will raffle off to raise extra donations). For renewal, we will be handing out packets of flower seeds. The same as were handed out at Jennifer’s memorial. And Inspiration is the kids.

Leigh’s kids had the idea to bring their ping pong table and raise more donations by charging to be in a tournament. The Thompsonettes decorated a bunch of luminarias with Debbie and their Grandma. Little J asked me so sincerely if he could PLEASE stay up all night this year so that he could walk the whole time with me. By the way, he is on the leader board for the event in the top ten highest individual fundraisers. The kid has moxy, and seems boundless.

The ingenuity and dedication of these kids is inspiring, but kids represent inspiration in another way. Remember when polio was a huge issue? Or when people would die of measles or the mumps? Or when getting a fever was basically a death sentence? No, I don’t remember that either. That’s because through research scientists eventually found ways to vaccinate against and treat these once epidemic diseases and conditions. We’re in the second decade of the twenty-first century. It’s time to make cancer the smallpox or measles of the next generation. This is a large part of why we all walk. Remembrance and celebration for sure! But also, raising awareness of the cause, and maybe most importantly, raising money that will go toward helping people who are currently dealing with cancer and money that will go toward finding a way to stop it.

I’ll post some pictures after the event. In the meantime, if you’re moved to, you can support the cause (and Little J’s fundraising efforts) by making a donation here:

Your donation of any size will be a great tribute to the memory of Jennifer and to anybody else you might know that has been taken by cancer or who are currently fighting, and it will be great support for all of the people that go to work everyday to stop this ridiculous disease.

Thank you!


  1. Michael Cooper’s avatar

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  2. JO’s avatar

    What a timely reminder of all the reasons we are walking on the weekend. I am so honored to be part of the Sugartown team for the first time, and I can’t wait to experience some of the moments that Jenn told me about over the years.

    Love, Beauty, Renewal and Inspiration! Four words and meanings to keep in the forefront of our minds as we walk with our friends and for our friends.

    Thanks Dennis for a great post.

  3. Helena’s avatar

    Thank you so much, Dennis, for every one of these words, for your beautiful boy and your incredible spirit and for reminding me again how much we will always love you, Jenn and Little J. Thank you—we love you guys.


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