Friday, April 13, 2012

What Is The Relay For Life?

( Yes we must believe and we must have hope. Friends of ours from our event. )

The Relay For Life is the flagship fundraising event for the American Cancer Society and the largest community driven fundraiser in the world. The Relay For Life is a celebration, a remembrance and a promise for the future. In the first two parts of this series about my cancer journey and how I’m fighting back (Part 1, Part 2) I shared the beginning of the story and the history of the team I helped form to volunteer and fundraise in our local communities. Through the Relay For Life I’ve learned so much and met so many great people that I couldn’t think of giving this experience back.That's why I'm sharing it with you!

The Relay For Life is a place where all of us who share in the cancer story can go to give support, get support, fight back and make a difference. Teams raise money for months leading up to the event, hosting fundraisers and soliciting family, friends and co-workers. I’ll get to where the money goes in a future post, but just to keep it simple, your money goes to fund programs and research that make you and a whole shitload of other people heroes to people with cancer. I’ve been, there and it sucks, and having caring, well trained people there to help makes a huge difference.  Be that hero.

( I was asked to be the survivor speaker at the kickoff in 2011. 
Shaved my head for it. Just because I could.)

Our local event is held at the track of Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH. We kick off the event with a survivor lap which is one of the most emotional events I’ve ever been party to. It’s hard to write about the survivor lap now because several people I loved and who also shared the pleasure of this most cruel of best things ever, are no longer here to walk it with me. So when I tell you this all sucks, don’t underestimate what I mean. But it is the people who you get in with at this event that make you realize its power. Caregivers join survivors for a second lap, and then all the team and event participants get into it from there. Survivors and caregivers are invited to a celebratory reception following the kickoff and initial laps. After that I always look forward to walking a few laps with my whole team making noise and letting people know we are there and fighting back.

The walking in circles will go on now for 17 more hours. Teams are obliged to have one member on the track at all times until the event loses at noon the next day.

In 2010 after being astonished at what our scrappy little team had accomplished I fashioned up the following slideshow/video as a tribute to what we had done. Here we are two years later with me thinking about needing a bigger sign to fit We raised $100,000.00!!!!! on.

Throughout the night there are games, activities, fundraisers, music, dancing and lots of laughing. We do turn off the lights at 9PM and use the glow from luminaria bags to walk in silence for an hour remembering those who can no longer be with us and honoring those on the front lines in this fight.

Then there is more walking, a bit more walking; what is it with all the walking? Man, I have never walked so much and not physically gotten anywhere like I do at Relay. Each lap has a theme, with the turning of each debuting new costumes, music and activities. A warm cup of coffee is a welcome friend at 2 AM when there are only 100 people on the track.

When morning finally comes we are all usually pretty happy, and more or less so based on the overnight weather. You aren’t technically camping, more like bivouacking or manning a field outpost. We’ve had thunderstorms come right across the field, pouring rain, steady but constant rain, fog, cold and wind. We’ve heard reports of other events seeing snow. You will want to be a bit hardcore to deal with it. And walk 30+ miles in any or all of it. Morning snacks are brought in by team relief that heads back to our house overnight. Boxes of donuts are made scarce in short order.

Cancer affects all of us sooner or later. Don’t believe me? The latest statistic from the American Cancer Society is that 1 in 2 people will be affected by cancer in our lifetime. None of us live alone forever, so it affects all of us sooner or later. I tell people that I feel that everyone should support a cause they can get behind, but truly support it. And for many people that means putting their support with someone else who is making just the difference they can be part of. I can’t thank you, my family, my friends and all the people who have continued to support me in this fight enough. We are ALL making a difference.

To be someone’s hero donate to the Relay For Life using the online form at

Be an even bigger hero and send this post to your friends. Facebook it, Tweet it, send and email, make a call, write a letter, send a carrier pigeon with a blank money order, what ever it takes. We need to more fighters and more ammo in this fight!



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