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Relay for Life honors cancer survivors

Six cancer survivors made their survivor's lap at the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life at the Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School in June 2014. Over $12,000 was raised by 12 teams who walked the track continuously for 24 hours to raise support for services to patients with cancer.

For five years, in the early 2000s, Calistogans Jim and Kathy Flamson were in charge of organizing the local Relay for Life, a 24-hour fundraising drive for the American Cancer Society. “We kinda fell into Relay for Life and that really consumed our time,” Jim said recently.

Jim Flamson has been in business in Calistoga, both as an insurance agent and a tax preparer for the past 44 years. His wife, Kathy, has had a varied career, most recently serving as Calistoga City Clerk. Both will retire at the end of December.

For the five years that the Flamsons ran the Relay for Life, it was held on the grounds of the Calistoga High School. Then for four years, it was held in St. Helena, at the Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School and then it moved back to Calistoga for two years, where it was held at the Napa County Fairgrounds.

“We did five of them and then in their divine wisdom, (the American Cancer Society) decided to move it to St. Helena and that was really the death of it,” Flamson said. The events, he added, supposedly “weren’t making enough money.”

“The first year we did it in Calistoga, we won an award for the second-highest per capita (amount raised) for a city under 10,000 people for the state of California. That was unheard of,” Flamson said.

That inaugural event included 44 teams and raised $116,000, according to newspaper reports at the time. Flamson continues his story: “The second year we almost doubled what we made the first year” and the third year, the amount raised was even more. Then the donations started to fall off and the American Cancer Society sponsors decided to move it to St. Helena.

The last of those years, 2014, there were 49 people involved on 12 teams and the event raised $12,000.

“They tried to bring it back to Calistoga, although we could no longer use the high school grounds, because they put a new gymnasium in, which took up all the parking area. We tried to hold it on the grassy area at the Fairgrounds. It didn’t work,” Flamson said.

Fifteen teams raised $20,000 in May 2015 and the following year, the last year the Upvalley Relay for Life was held, there were 11 teams that raised $19,000.

“When we talked about doing this (interview) about a month ago, I went and pulled out my Relay box,” Flamson said. In it were stacks of newspapers, The Weekly Calistogans. “The coverage was wonderful, it made all the difference in the world,” he added. The editorials published in advance in the Calistogan, written by then publisher Doug Ernst, “probably brought a couple hundred more people to the event,” Flamson added.

Kathy said, “It was a community event and we had great support from the hospital.”

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St. Helena Star Editor

David Stoneberg is the editor of the St. Helena Star, an award-winning weekly newspaper. Prior to joining the Star in 2006, he worked for the Lake County Record-Bee, the Clear Lake Observer American, the Middletown Times Star, The Weekly Calistogan and st