By: James Baratta
This year, The Relay for Life took place on May 30th at Long Beach Middle School from 7pm to 7am. Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society to promote research and allow scientists to get a step closer to preventing cancer and possibly developing a cure. In order to walk for the cause, people willing to participate created teams, set a fundraising goal, and raised money towards that goal. All of the money raised was put towards the funding of cancer research.
To kick off the event, the Survivor’s Dinner took place at 6:00 PM. Survivors and their families sat together and enjoyed a variety of entrees and side dishes. Survivors were greeted with a smile and were given a sash, pin, and t-shirt.
The second part of the event was the Pledge of Allegiance by James Baratta and the inspiring Cancer story of his mother, Michelle Baratta. Her story was said straight from her heart and shared with all participants of the Relay for Life. She talked about how just before she was thinking on giving up, she was awakened:
“I heard the tires of the bus screech and the doors open and close from my bedroom. In comes my son James ‘Hi mom! How are you feeling today!?’ Those thoughts I had about giving up left me immediately”.
Her words inspired listeners to know that even when you reach those treacherous times, never give up on yourself no matter what the circumstances.
Immediately after, the survivor’s took their first lap around the track under the soon-to-be setting sun. Caregivers and other participants cheered as they walked; filling their hearts and souls with pure joy knowing that they have won the fight against cancer. Just after, the caregivers took their lap around the track. Without them, it would have been almost impossible for the survivors to beat cancer. Thanks to their overwhelming care towards their affected loved ones, they beat this perilous disease.
At 8:30, Sean Donolon performed on stage in front of the Relay for Life’s participants. After each song, he was complimented by an overwhelming applause. This talented young man performed many songs, but the crowd’s favorite seemed to be Santeria by Sublime.
At 9:00 PM, Dance Dynamix performed to the song You Found Me by The Fray. The crowd was amazed with their stunning splits and the expression of the dance. Just after, Angelina Thomas performed to the song You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me by Cher as a solo. The crowd was enchanted by her grace and extreme talent.
At 9:30 PM the most moving part of the fundraiser took place; the Luminara Ceremony. The ceremony honored all of the people who are still fighting cancer and who have been lost to the disease. Hundreds of decorated luminaras were placed around the track. Once the lights were shut off, the sight was breathtaking. As participants came around the first 100 meters of the track, they saw the luminaras on the bleachers spelling out “HOPE”; reassuring that as long there is a will, there is a way.
The next part of the ceremony was where the real fun began. Freeze tag was held in the field playing many different upbeat songs that the crowd simply loved! This was followed by a dance party for about a half hour. At 1AM, kickball was held in front of the stage. Players participated for an hour and the rest of the participants either walked the track or cheered on for their friends/family. What would this awesome event be without musical chairs? The game started off with a few participants getting out every so often, but then it became intense. The music played and as soon as it stopped, pure chaos. Participants rushed to find a seat until there was only one chair left. It was truly an entertaining part of Relay for Life!
Later at 3:00AM the mummy wrap contest was held. Four participants were wrapped with toilet paper to look like a mummy. Whoever was wrapped the most and the best by their
teammates won the contest. As the timer ran out, teammates struggled to wrap their mummy as best as they could. Ask any participants…it was a BLAST!
At 4:00 AM, participants walked the candy lap. As they walked, they were given at least two pieces of different candy. Just after, the horses and their riders dominated the track. Riders used circular bouncing horses and raced down the track. To top it off, a 100 meter dash had runners sprinting down the straightaway of the track; with the will to win!
Later, the garbage bag dress contest was held. Teams were given 20 minutes to make a fashionable dress with limited time and resources; it was an intense challenge. After the 20 minutes, the judges decided and selected Jesse Scott, a freshman, to be the winner. His impressive shoulder-showing dress and blue tie in his hair made him the definitive winner.
At 6:00 AM, yoga and breakfast were held under the crisp sunrise temperatures. Participants enjoyed a relaxing session along with some tasty bagels from the Long Beach Bagel Café. The participants then gathered their tents and their belongings; leaving the magnificent event feeling relaxed and ready to finally go to sleep.
A majority of the people walking have had a personal experience with cancer, especially Megan Stewart. Megan is the Community Manager of the American Cancer Society and she is in charge of Relay for Life wherever it may be held. Megan answered a few questions concerning the event and Cancer.
What is your position in the American Cancer Society and what is the responsibility of that position?
I am the community manager and I organize/plan for Relay for Life. I also engage the community by raising awareness for Cancer.
My mom has cancer; she inspired me to get involved in an organization that helps people.
What places do visit to set up fundraisers? Which one is your favorite?
Relays happen all over the world; we have 40 across Long Island and Long Beach is my favorite!
What was your favorite thing about fundraising?
Meeting people and hearing their stories.
How long do you think it will take to acquire a cure for cancer?
The more people that relay, the faster we will have a cure!
The event wouldn’t have been as great as it was without the help of our own Brandan Persaud. Brandan is a senior at Long Beach and he helped run Relay for Life with Megan Stewart. He plans to attend American University to major in Political Science. Brandon also answered a few questions concerning the event and his personal experience with cancer.
What inspired you to do Relay for Life?
Cancer on both sides of my family. My grandfather was a cancer survivor on my mom’s side of the family. Recently, my aunt is a survivor of cancer and I took the care-giving role because she was right in Long Beach.
What were your responsibilities for the event?
I had a variety of responsibilities and my position was the student chair. That entailed a lot on its own with the organization of the fundraiser, raising awareness in the community, including in the school with teachers and students; really publicizing the event and planning the events throughout the entire night.
What was your favorite part of Relay for Life? Why?
I have been involved in the past years and this year, I played more of the leadership role. It was a very moving ceremony and once we all took the lap of silence around the track it was very symbolic of the ones who are still fighting and the ones who we have lost.
Do you believe we will have a cure for cancer in your lifetime?
I do; with all the advanced technology we have in the world today and all of these stories you hear the possibilities are there and I do believe we will have a cure.
How do you think we can strive for a cure? How can anybody be helpful?
I think we can strive for a cure by doing what we’ve done here in Long Beach by bringing awareness of how many lives cancer has touched.
Megan Stewart, Brandan Persaud, and Relay for Life’s participants raised over 25,000 dollars! The amount of money raised will allow the American Cancer Society to be one step closer to developing a cure for the vicious disease. Everyone who raised money and/or walked for the cause raised cancer awareness and became part of the populated community that takes a stand against cancer. Their mighty steps around the rough red track filled unaware people with powerful voices and allowed them to continue to do the same to others who are unaware of this disease.
All of those courageous people became part of a movement that will make this disease unexposed to any innocent, unexpected victims. Although The Relay for Life is over for now, the American Cancer Society still encourages donations until mid-June. Above all, they thank all participants for helping in the research. The fundraiser may be over, but cancer is not…at least not yet. The American Cancer Society asks you to keep raising awareness of cancer so that we may all keep “bringing awareness of how many lives cancer has touched; whether directly or indirectly”.
Everyone who raised money and/or walked for the cause raised cancer awareness and became part of the populated community that takes a stand against cancer. Their mighty steps around the rough red track filled unaware people with powerful voices and allowed them to continue to do the same to others who are unaware. All of those courageous people became part of a movement that will make this disease unexposed to any innocent, unexpected victims.