It's hard not to smile as the Mooving for a Cure team makes its way around the Harrison Lagoon each year, walking lap after lap in support of cancer research.
Their black and white cow costumes, complete with tails and horns, offer a bit of humour during the Relay for Life, and their theme is a symbol of the farming community of Agassiz where most of the members live.
But beyond the wonderful costumes, jokes and giggles, there are also tears of sadness. Most of the members of Mooving for a Cure have someone close to them who have been through cancer treatment, or lost their lives to it. The team was started by Karen Hatt, shortly after the Canadian Cancer Society announced that the Relay for Life would be starting a Harrison Hot Springs relay. It was just a year before that her father died from cancer.
"When I saw it advertised, I put a message on my Facebook wall," Hatt said, "and wow, I had a team in no time."
Three years later, the team is walking in the Relay for Life once again, and busy collecting pledges online prior to the May 31 relay.
In the time that's passed, at least one member has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Bev Sargent, from Agassiz, was diagnosed shortly after last year's relay. She'll be back this year, though, taking part in the always emotional Survivor's Lap that kicks off the event.
And earlier this year many of the team members lost their close friend, Chris Brown. Brown spent much of his free time on Harrison Lake with his wife, Coleen, and through their time on the lake they've made many friends, including the Hatt family.
"A lot of us (on the team) are close to Chris and Coleen," Karen Hatt said. As they walk along the lakeshore, they'll be keeping him in their thoughts. The Relay for Life begins in the evening with music (by Todd Richard) and the Survivor's Lap. Cancer survivors are invited to speak to the crowd, and everyone is invited to create a paper bag luminary in honour of their loved ones.
As the sun sets, the luminaries light up the lagoon's edge as the walkers begin their 12-hour journey. Seeing those luminaries is one of Hatt's favourite moment from the event.
"It's very moving," she said. "But you know what I really like is walking around in the middle of the night. People share stories that you wouldn't just talk about on the street. It's pitch dark, middle of the night and everyone is a little emotional. It's a really nice sharing time."
It's been both a time of healing and making new friends.
Last year, each person on their team walked the lagoon 16-28 times, and one lap around is about 1.1 km. In between their laps, they took turns resting at their tent. In total, their team raised about $8,000 toward the total $32,000 for the event. This year, the event's goal is $35,000 and they're sitting just below $7,000.
They are still actively looking for donations, and encouraging others to take part in the event by starting their own team, walking as an individual, or volunteering their time. The relay begins at 7 p.m. on May 31 and ends at 7 a.m. on June 1.
To learn more, search for Harrison Hot Springs Relay for Life, or phone Jenny Souk at 604-798-8670.