Relay for Life lasts all night because ‘cancer never sleeps’

By Merja H. Lehtinen - ReminderNews
East Haddam - posted Mon., Sep. 23, 2013
Hundreds of walkers in 30 teams or more walked to raise money and awareness to help find a cure for cancer. Photos by Merja H. Lehtinen.
Hundreds of walkers in 30 teams or more walked to raise money and awareness to help find a cure for cancer. Photos by Merja H. Lehtinen.

Hundreds of local people - organized in more than 30 teams in all - participated in the sixth annual East Haddam Relay for Life to support research funded by the American Cancer Society. The overnight event lasted from noon on Saturday, Sept. 14, until 9 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15, on the East Haddam Elementary School grounds.

The purpose of Relay for Life is to demonstrate that "cancer never sleeps," said Stephanie Pare, one of the leaders of the team called “Beach Bums.”

With lively rock music, the brightly-colored tents, activity centers and colored clothing of walkers, the event had a festive feeling. Although the spirit was one of collaboration, kindness, determination and support, there was underlying sadness, however, as many of the people who walked did so in memory of a loved one who lost a battle with cancer or is currently fighting the disease.

In Pare's case, there were three people she honored and remembered: her mother, Mary Lou Kaerweer, grandmother Mary, and family friend Carol Garafalo.

Not everyone slept on the site overnight; many people went home, and would come for a few hours during the night, and return again in morning. Others stayed and rested in tents. But all through the night, the crowds walked on and raised money every step of the way. There was also emphasis on staying healthy, with medical checkpoints where participants could be tested and monitored.

People walked as many as 45 miles last year, said Pare. Her team alone raised more than $3,500. "We panhandle like there is no tomorrow," said Pare. It was anticipated walkers would do the same again this year as they walked around and around the track.

By evening, there were lighted luminaries that lined the way to remember lost loved ones and guide the walkers. The luminary lighting is a serious ceremony, said Carolyn Fischmann. "At 9 p.m., we light the luminaries around the track and people look for the names of loved ones they are honoring or remembering those who are still fighting the battle," she said.


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