Tumwater community comes together for larger purpose

Sally strong: Second annual summer event set for Saturday


October of 2022 ended up being an emotional month for Tana Otton-Marbut and her husband, Don.

They were guests at the celebration of life for Sally Otton, the mother of Tumwater High School football star and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Cade Otton. Then they shifted focus to their honeymoon.

Yet they weren’t spending all day finding which beach to lay on or what restaurant was the choice for dinner.

They were brainstorming and planning how to remember their friend, who passed away in September 2022 due to Parkinson’s disease. She was 50 years old.

“(Don) said ‘We have to come up with something to memorialize Sally’ and he came up with this event,” Otton-Marbut said. “We wanted to embody some of the things she loved. We went into it with the idea it would be an annual thing.”

Saturday will be the second annual Sally Strong Summer Event held at the Summit Lake Community Center in Olympia. It will feature a super mini triathlon that starts at 9 a.m., a cornhole tournament beginning at 12:30 p.m. and silent auction items up for bid for seven hours.

Live music starts at 1 p.m.

“Every year her friends are flying from Utah, Colorado, Montana, we get to celebrate Sally. The family is flying in,” Otton-Marbut said. “The second part is that Sally was the most unreal warrior when it comes to being a Parkinson’s patient.

“She wanted to find a cure. She would do anything in her power, she would fight like heck to go to any event. (It never got) in the way of her living. We’re going to continue it for her. We need to find a cure for this disease.”

One of the primary partners for the event is the 4 The Love Foundation, co-founded by Tessa Effland and Nicole Anders. Of the proceeds raised on Saturday, 20 percent of it will go to the foundation based in Thurston County. The remaining 80 percent will be donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Last summer, the event raised a total of $32,000 in its first year. Just based on sponsors this year, they have nearly equaled that total with $30,000 raised. Two years ago at a football game between Tumwater and Black Hills, they raised $75,000 all donated to the MJF Foundation.

“It was like ‘Hey, let’s see what happens,’” Otton-Marbut said. “It turned into one of the most fun days from start to finish. What really gets me the most is the people we don’t know. First year, people we knew stepped up to the plate. This year, people (are) rallying around the mission.”

Sponsors, food trucks and silent auction items have all increased from last year. Otton-Marbut wants the event to resemble a party to remember Sally.

She did plenty of triathlons to stay active, but she also was a constant presence at many T-Bird events.

“Our community is ridiculous,” Otton-Marbut said. “It always comes together when people are in need. Sally was just special and our family has been a big part of the Tumwater community for a long time.”