Stepping closer to the cure
Five years ago, the American Cancer Society fundraiser, Relay for Life, consisted of little more than laps around a track. Money was raised for cancer research; people were satisfied. But since then, the event has grown to encompass a wide range of entertainment, music, food, speakers, and art activities- the list goes on. Relay for Life, which takes place this weekend at the regional high school, is a multifaceted event that draws together the community to honor and support those who have died, survived, or are now battling cancer - a disease that affects us all.
Despite all its additional features, Relay for Life still centers on what happens on the track. On Friday evening, 33 teams, the largest number to date, will begin walking laps around the quarter-mile loop outside the high school. The teams will continue walking for 21 hours. Tents will be set up in the circle of grass inside the track so participants can rest while their team members carry on.
"The idea of the walk is to try to keep somebody from your team on the track for the entire 21-hour duration," explains David Klein, a member of the Relay for Life committee as well as the team, Pals for Progress. "Everybody pitches in at least an hour or two hours of their time."
The ceremony commences at 6 pm with the Survivor Talk: "It's a way for the survivors to meet and talk to each other or to someone who's going through it now to find out a little more about the disease and what support there is out there," explains Katryn Yerdon, the event's entertainment chairman. The cancer survivors will walk a lap before the rest of the participants.
Adamant about the importance of finding a cure for cancer, Ms. Yerdon participated five years ago as captain of the Workout Wonders, and was so inspired by the spirit of the event that she joined the committee the following year. "Cancer has touched everybody's life, whether it be someone you worked with, a loved one, or you who had cancer," says Ms. Yerdon. "We need to find a cure, and the only way we're going to do that is to raise funds for the research."
Last year Relay for Life raised $100,000. This year, Ms. Yerdon hopes to raise $125,000.
Working to achieve this goal, the teams hosted several fundraisers throughout the year - something they'd never done before. "A lot of the participants decided to go outside of the box this year and not wait for the event itself," Ms. Yerman explains, citing a tennis tournament, pasta dinner, pancake breakfast, and a garage sale.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
The event will include live music by Chad & Rock and the StingRays. Islander Marty Nadler will provide comedy relief on Friday evening, passing the torch to IMP, the comedy improv group, who will perform the next morning. Aerobic activities such as Tai Chi, Yoga, assisted stretching, and Zumba are scheduled throughout the weekend. The Martha's Vineyard Rotary Club will be serving five-dollar meals: burgers for dinner and pancakes for breakfast.
On Saturday from 9 am-12 noon the Kids Carnival is the main attraction. "We tried to make Saturday a family day so that families can come out and participate even if they don't know that much about the relay itself," says Ms. Yerdon. "It's the children who will be affected if we don't find a cure for cancer, so we really want to let them participate however they want."
For many, the Luminary Lighting is the most moving part of the event. Bags that have been purchased through donations and decorated in honor or memory of someone who has been touched by cancer are lined along the track. Each one contains a candle that burns long after the twilight has faded into night. From 9 to 9:30 pm, bagpiper Tony Peak leads the teams in a slow procession. "It's quite an amazing thing to see the sunset over the candle-lit track as the bagpiper plays," remarks Ms. Yerdon. "It brings many tears and many grateful thoughts for those who have survived."
Relay for Life begins Friday, June 13, at 3 pm, and continues until Saturday, June 14, at 12 noon at the regional high school, Oak Bluffs. Entry fee, $10, which includes registration and a tee-shirt. For more information, call Janine, 508-627-1497, firstname.lastname@example.org.