Relay for Life South Windsor/Rockville dedicated to beating cancer

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., May. 30, 2013
Survivors of cancer join together to participate in the Survivor Walk during the Relay for Life South Windsor/Rockville ceremonies. Photo courtesy of Amy Yobst. - Contributed Photo

For Amy Yobst, something special happens at the annual Relay for Life South Windsor/Rockville that is difficult to explain. "It's hard to put it into words," said Yobst, a volunteer. "I like to tell people that Relay for Life is an experience rather than an event." Relay for Life is an overnight celebration of loved ones who have battled cancer, a memorial ceremony for those who lost their lives to cancer, and a rally for the fight against the disease.

This year, teams will gather at the track of South Windsor High School on Friday, June 7, to Saturday, June 8, for the 2013 Relay for Life South Windsor/Rockville.

Last year, $200,000 was raised for the American Cancer Association. Tireless volunteers enable the success of the event itself. "Volunteers give their time and talents making Relay for Life possible," said Lynn Kipphut of the American Cancer Society. "Every event has a chairperson  and a planning committee, we have been meeting since Sept. 1,  2012,  planning every area of the event from team recruitment to the entertainment."

"Volunteers inspire others to get involved. They lead by example, giving their time and talents for a cause they believe in. Many work  full-time jobs, have families to care for and lead active lives," said Kipphut.

The event is made up by many different teams, and every team member is asked to raise at least $100. "Raising the funds takes place prior to the event, during the event, and after," said Yobst. The fundraising season begins with a kickoff event in November. Teams may partner with restaurants for programs where 10 percent of checks go to Relay for Life for an hour, or they may hold cookouts or other events. Individuals ask friends, family and coworkers for donations, and there is also a Relay for Life website which allows participants to create their own page and issue requests for donations. "There's a lot of work that goes into it beforehand," she said.

At the event itself, teams are given a campsite on the inside of the outdoor track, from which they can do onsite fundraising. Some teams have sold food, jewelry and crafts or glowsticks.

The fundraising season does not end until the end of August, so teams will have further opportunities to raise donations for 2013.

When she was 16, Yobst lost her father to colon cancer. He was 44 at the time. Yobst's team, "For the Ones We Love," honors his memory, and is made up of her mother, brother and sister, nephews and friends. "We're there raising money for the American Cancer Society, but really it's also a safe place to grieve for those who were lost to cancer," said Yobst. "It's a very powerful experience for those who have dealt with the loss of a loved one, and for those who are currently battling the disease."

This is Yobst's 19th year participating in Relay for Life. When she first became involved, she found the community of people with shared experiences very helpful. "Twenty-odd years ago, people didn't talk about cancer," she said. "If someone had cancer, it was whispered among neighbors that so-and-so is sick. You didn't really know how to deal with that. I think Relay for Life has given people that ability to talk about it and share experiences, which is excellent."

Relay for Life also celebrates those who have battled the disease and have won. There is a survivor walk for those who lived through cancer. Donning yellow shirts, they make the walk with their caregivers. "It's such a powerful thing to see, especially when you see kids in those yellow shirts," Yobst said.

Perhaps the most moving part of the event is the luminaria ceremony. Participants can purchase a white paper bag with candles in them in remembrance of one they lost to cancer. The luminarias are laid around the track, and stay lit until they burn out.

"We set some records last year; our event was one of the top 25 Relays in New England," said Kipphut. "I am extremely proud of the South Windsor/Rockville community, committee and all of our relay participants." Kipphut also thanked the event chairperson and organizer, LuAnn Izraelevitz, for her leadership this year and last.

On Friday, Relay for Life South Windsor/Vernon "soft starts" at 3 p.m., at which time at least one representative of each team be on the track. The official opening ceremony is at 6 p.m., and the luminaria ceremony is at 9:30 p.m. On Saturday morning, they hold the "Fight Back Ceremony."

"This is our way of telling cancer we're going to kick its butt," said Yobst. The closing ceremony is Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Kipphit at or 203-379-4874.

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