Relay For Life
By Rachel, age 26, Connecticut
It's September, and it's that time of year again. What time of year am I referring to? Fall? Well, yes, but I am also referring to the month when my youth group participates in our largest event of the year, Relay For Life.
What is Relay For Life, you ask? Relay For Life is one of the largest events put on by the American Cancer Society, where whole communities come together. How does it all work? The purpose of Relay is to gain donors to sponsor you or your team for each lap that you walk, or every 5, 10, or 20 laps, etc. The goals are to raise money for cancer research and awareness about the disease.
One month out of the year those who live in town either sign up as individuals or find friends and family members and they become a team. All the teams and individuals meet in a central location in town, usually a baseball, soccer, or track field. Each team or individual is given an area around the track where they can set up chairs and tents and tables if they are selling food or hosting an activity during Relay.
My youth group does a sand art table. As the relay participants walk around the track, for every lap they complete, they fill their sand art container with sand to mark that lap.
Relay runs for two days. This year the Relay for Life in my town runs from Saturday, September 17th at 12 noon to Sunday September 18th at 9:00 a.m. Like last year, my youth group intends to walk from 12 noon straight through the night until breakfast at 8:00 a.m. the next morning. We bring tents and set them up in case there are those team members who wish to go to sleep.
During Relay there are tributes to those we have lost to cancer. If you wish, you may buy what is called a luminaria, which is a white paper bag on which you can write the name of the person or people you have lost. Every year I buy five bags, one for each of my grandfathers, one for my Grandpa Gil (who was a grandfather figure to me from birth until I lost him when I was 20), my Great Aunt Mary, and my great grandmother, all of whom passed away between 2002 and 2006 as a result of cancer. We have one lap which we dedicate to the loved ones who are still battling or have survived cancer. I walk that lap for a family friend whom I have been close with all of my life, Mitzi, for a family friend who has also been a good friend to me, Carla, and for my best guy friend in the entire world without whom I would lost, my buddy Carl.
Throughout the night there are written tributes, as well as songs, and a candlelight lap in which we walk silently and read all of the luminaria bags with the names of those we have lost. Then there are the fun laps, such as crazy hat lap and pajama lap, and my favorite, teddy bear lap.
During Relay, food is shared and there is music playing. It's a time to enjoy being with friends, relatives, and people from the community. Relay For Life is a two day event in which we share our stories, share our loved ones, share memories, and most importantly, build new memories. We declare that we will not allow cancer to win and we stand as allies or as survivors in the fight against cancer.
In my opinion, Relay For Life is one of the most powerful and inspiring events I have ever experienced. This will be the third year in a row I will attend. The memories of past Relays bring up memories, tears, and smiles, but most of all pride that I live in a town in which everyone turns out and stands up against cancer. I cannot wait for September 17th to roll around to build new memories with my friends, church friends, community members, and those who have come from out of town. I look forward to all that Relay For Life means for me and for so many others.