Our theme this year revolved around Dr. Seuss and our tag line was, "Cancer, not here...not there...not anywhere"!
If you're not familiar with Relay for Life, let me explain. It's not a race....that's one of the first questions everyone asks me. Relay for Life began back in the 80's with a physician who decided to walk 24 hours around a track to raise money against cancer. Since then, the concept behind Relay has changed tremendously, but the overall purpose of fighting against cancer has not. Now, local tracks, parks, and outdoor facilities throughout the world are packed with survivors, teams, family members, and caregivers who are passionate about the fight against cancer. The nighttime concept was based on the thought of "cancer never sleeps" and cancer patients deal with the side effects of treatment, their disease, etc for 24 hours a day. Our local event lasts from 6 p.m. to midnight but some events actually last for 24 hours!
The "relay" aspect comes in to play where one person from each team walks the circle/track throughout the entire event. Each team has a "spirit stick" that they hand off to their teammate when their teammate takes the track, much like a runner would do in a relay event.
How do we fund raise? Each team who sets up a tent has the option to bake/cook items for donation, set up items to raffle off for donation, have fun jumps/games for kids, etc (the options are endless, really). For example, I eat dinner and have dessert at Relay every year. Relay food is some of the best food out there because it's usually the worst for you! Haha! On Friday night, my husband and I shared several items like fried pickles, cheese fries, and cookies/brownies. Yes, we were bad!
So, now you know! The next time someone asks if Relay for Life is a race, you can tell them no it's not! :)
We also had several fun events for teams to participate in. At the end of the night, the team with the most points won the team spirit award. One of the events was a bake off. I thought the creativity behind these cakes was amazing! Aren't they adorable?!
Here's my team! :)
...and this year's smallest relayer, Brayden! His hat didn't last long as it was warm outside, but we made it mainly for pictures, anyway!
My parents enjoyed showing him off, too! :)
Our mayor opened up the event along with a few radio/TV personalities as our DJ's.
The first lap of the evening began with our survivors and each purple shirt represented a cancer survivor. I love this lap and get teary-eyed every year because this lap represents what I do professionally. Another purple shirt = another life saved.
After the survivor lap, caregivers joined in followed by the teams.
Shortly after sundown, all of the teams were asked to turn off their generators and lights as we began our lumiaria ceremony.
(This is a very reverent event where we celebrate those who are still fighting the battle, remember those whose lives were lost, and fight back against this disease.)
During the ceremony, our track was lined with bags - we had over 700 bags this year. Each bag was created in honor of a survivor or in memory of a loved one whose life was lost. The bag shown above was created in memory of my late grandfather who passed away from lung cancer when I was a senior in high school.
This whole ceremony is hands down one of my favorite parts of Relay.
I did have to smile at someone's humor - every life can be affected by cancer...no matter how rich or famous they might be!
Brayden enjoyed relaying the night away, too! Well...he didn't stay ALL night. Jason took him home after the luminaria ceremony! :)
One of the administrators of my hospital was there and looked shocked to see me - she asked why I was at Relay if I was on maternity leave as I assumed she saw it as a "work responsibility" for me. I told her I was on the planning committee but after she walked away, I realized something - Relay to me is so much more than a work responsibility...actually, I never even considered it one! Having a personal connection with my grandfather and his lung cancer battle is what began my passion to work in oncology and an event like relay is just icing on the cake!
I am so looking forward to next year and can't wait for another great event! Can you guess what next year's theme is going to be? If you know me, then I'm 100% sure you can. Hint: It has to do with a mouse and a little magic! :)