My mom is a breast cancer survivor and a very active volunteer with the American Cancer Society. For the last few years she has invited us to help out with the Relay for Life event but it has never worked in our schedule, until this year. Last weekend Aaron, Ron and I went down to Venice to volunteer in any way we could. Friday afternoon Aaron and I helped set up and decorate the Survivor’s Tent and organize the goodie bags for the survivors in attendance. At the Survivor’s dinner there were 150 survivors and caregivers and together they represented over 675 years of survivorship, the newest being 2 months and the longest being 31 years!
After the Survivor’s dinner, the opening ceremonies were held and then the 18 hour relay started with a very special lap, the Survivors Lap. The Survivors gathered behind a banner and walked counter-clockwise around the track while the Caregivers walked clockwise around the track. The two groups met up on the far side of the track and then merged into one large group and completed the lap going counter-clockwise, it was very touching to celebrate with the survivors.
After that the teams hit the track. Each team has to have at least 1 member on the track at all times during the 18 hour relay. Teams are made up of school and church groups, civic clubs, companies and even groups of families. Each team raises money before the event and during the event they try to raise more money by selling food, drinks, t-shirts, glow bracelets and even by holding raffles. This years goal for the Venice relay was $220,000 and they were well on their way to meeting their goal when I headed home.
Once the sun goes down the solemn luminaria ceremony begins. People donate money and decorate paper bags in honor or in memory of someone affected by cancer. I did 2 bags one for Jill Harris, my husband’s cousin who died of breast cancer leaving 2 young sons behind and one for all of my Hystersisters who have battled cancer. My mom bought one in memory of her mom. We walk a lap in silence, the only sound a bagpipe playing “Amazing Grace”. This is so powerful. I wept all the way around the track and then I totally lost it, I got to a spot where a young boy, maybe 9-10 yrs old, wearing a survivor shirt himself, was kneeling in front of a luminaria with a man’s name on it and the word “daddy”. This brought it all home for me, my heart broke for this boy. It solidified in my heart the fact that we need to do what we can to raise funds for the American Cancer Society so that they can both support those battling cancer and those searching for a cure.
What are you doing to secure a healthier, cancer-free future?