Relay for Life on Martha’s Vineyard


“Whatever you’re doin’, do it good,” from Charles Wright’s “Express Yourself” cranked out of speakers early Saturday morning at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School track.

The swarm of walkers at the eighth annual Relay for Life didn’t have to be told twice, dancing and spinning their way around the oval for the umpteenth time. They were all there to support cancer research and family and friends who’ve battled or are battling the disease.

More than 350 people showed up for the weekend, including 47 members of Team Diana who were there to support Diana Bardwell a feisty West Tisbury mom who’s in a two-year battle against a rare and deadly form of carcinoma.

As the Relay moved toward its conclusion at 11 am on Saturday, the event was inching closer to its goal of raising $86,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS), thanks to a long list of people “doin’ it good.”

By mid-morning, when they turned off the grill they’d been manning since before daybreak, executive vice president Paul Watts and his bleary-eyed colleagues from the Edgartown National Bank had raised more than $1,500 in breakfast pancake money for the American Cancer Society.

Sheila Hughes, a survivor who lost a leg to cancer as a teenager decades ago, swung her crutches around the track. “Someone promised a $25 donation for 25 laps,” she said, grinning. “Research has come a long way. And there’s more to be done.”

Leslie Stark of the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group took a break from a dance routine that seemed to combine elements of the Funky Chicken with flat-out booty-shakin’. “This is a great event,” he said. “It’s the eighth year for me. Islanders benefit from this.”

Captain Donald Rose of the Sheriff’s Department had a little Barry White going on as he crooned along with up-tempo classics, directed traffic on the track, while starting a cross-country fundraising race.

Cancer survivor Bill Croke of Edgartown was a grateful participant. “I’m paying back a little,” he said. “I’ve used ACS services like Life Flight and received the reservoir of wisdom at the Cancer Support Group. When you are able to share your problems, they are cut in half.”

Back at Team Diana HQ where Madame Bardwell was joyously presiding, Mona Banzer was quietly moved by what she was witnessing. ‘This is a wonderful experience,” she said.”All that is in life, including love and death, is here.”

Farther up the track, Kool and the Gang was kicking off “Celebration” as Capt. Rose exclaimed, “This is a celebration, people.”