For Wendy Salazar, the restaurant relay is more than just an event to raise money for a good cause. Now into its third year, the event to “86” ovarian cancer has raised thousands of dollars and become increasingly popular (the title comes from restaurant lingo — to “86” something is to take it off the menu). For Salazar, as for many others, the fundraiser’s success has a more personal meaning.
Six years ago, Salazar’s mother, Helen Jones, began experiencing severe back pain. After taking several tests, she was diagnosed with Stage IV terminal ovarian cancer. The diagnosis was a shock to both Jones and Salazar, who said she knew hardly anything about ovarian cancer at that time. Jones wasn’t about to take the news lying down and started treatment right away. The doctors weren’t optimistic about the amount of time she had left, but six years later she’s still holding her own against the disease.
“She’s a fighter. She’s doing really well,” Salazar said. “It’s really hard on the body.”
Although it’s difficult to watch her mother going through chemotherapy treatments, Salazar said that witnessing her mother’s strength has greatly influenced her own perspective on life over the past few years.
For example, it was Jones who persuaded Salazar to make the leap and get into the restaurant business. Three years ago, she and her friend Michelle McDonald took over The Log Cabin in Frisco.
“She told me, ‘Life is short, go for your dreams,’” Salazar said, simultaneously smiling and tearing up at the memory.
She followed that advice and hasn’t looked back.
“It’s been great,” McDonald said, of their partnership at The Log Cabin.
That same year, Bob Sarkow, owner of the Silverheels Grill on Frisco Main Street, approached McDonald and Salazar about an idea for a fundraiser. Sarkow, who had lost his wife to ovarian cancer in 2011, suggested that a restaurant relay would be a fun way to draw people in and raise some money for the cause. Salazar and McDonald instantly agreed.
The first year was a success, raising $6,000. The following year was even better, with a total of $10,000. Now, Salazar and McDonald hope to continue the streak and exceed last year’s amount. It certainly seems possible, too, as more than a dozen teams have signed up, with several more days to go.
The restaurant relay involves teams of two people, either individuals doing it for fun or businesses doing it to compete against each other. The relay starts at the Frisco Historic Park, with the first team member working his or her way down the north side of Main Street. At Backcountry Brewery, teammate two takes over, going up the south side of Main Street back toward the Historic Park.
Each side of the street has nine stops for the relay teams, with a total of 18 local businesses participating. Each stop requires the team member to perform a skill or task, of varying difficulty, before moving on to the next stop. For example, participants might be required to fill up a certain number of salt and pepper shakers at a restaurant, hand-grind a pound of coffee at a coffee shop, or pump air into tires at a sports shop.
“It’s just different silly little tasks along the way,” McDonald said. “Anyone can do it, you don’t have to be athletic.”
Prizes will be awarded to teams that have the fastest time, that raised the most money and that have the best costume. The fastest team also gets to display the Stanley Cup-style trophy at their place of business until next year’s relay.
In addition to the relay, the event will feature live music performed by local musicians as well as giveaways, a silent auction and a party.
“The community’s been so awesome in helping with donations,” Salazar said, including volunteering to be part of the relay race and donating items for the silent auction.
All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance (COCA) and, new this year, to the ProStart program of the Summit County chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association. COCA, established in 2005, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and supporting victims of the disease. The ProStart program awards scholarships annually to Summit High School graduates going on to college with the intention of joining the hospitality industry.
“It’s all local,” McDonald said of the fundraiser. “All the money stays in Colorado.”
McDonald and Salazar said they hope their event not only raises money for a good cause, but also raises awareness of ovarian cancer among women and brings attention to the local businesses in Frisco. Simply by holding the event, they said they’ve met many others locally who have been affected by ovarian cancer in some way.
Any and all are welcome at the event, even if they’re not part of a relay team. Donations through the silent auction or in the form of cash are check are also welcome.
“Even if people don’t want to run the race, they can still come and donate and give that way,” McDonald said.
Both McDonald and Salazar said they’re looking forward to this year’s event, confident that it will involve more teams, have more crazy costumes and raise more money than the previous years. Salazar’s mother, Jones, will also be on hand to join in the festivities.
“Come out,” McDonald said. “It’s going to be really fun.”