Event is Saturday, June 18, at Lew-Port
by Tiffany Hyman
A birthday is celebrating a life. A birthday is remembering a life. A birthday is a time to reflect in the fight back through life's most difficult times. Celebrate, remember and fight back at Relay For Life in Lewiston.
This year's theme for the 14th annual Relay For Life is celebrating birthdays amongst survivors and caregivers.
"A survivor is defined as anyone who has ever been diagnosed with cancer and a caregiver is anyone who has ever supported or helped a loved one with cancer," said Tami Gabri, director of special events for the American Cancer Society.
"This year, we are combining celebrating a birthday, another year to celebrate someone's life, amongst survivors and caregivers," she said.
Relay For Life is an event that invites families, neighbors and members of the community to join in the celebration of those who have battled cancer, are currently in treatment and those whose lives have been lost. Participants gather together to celebrate, remember and fight back.
"Relay gives people a chance to do something and give back," said Gabri.
Giving back is important. Relay For Life is not only a chance to give back, but also important to help the survivors.
Meet Jack, a happy-go-lucky 9-year-old. In December 2009, when he was just 7, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer. He is the honorary survivor of the year. Jack started chemotherapy just two days after being diagnosed and after 30 days, he was pronounced in remission.
"My son responded well to remission," said his mother, Dawn Van de Wal.
She explained statistics were in her son's favor of beating cancer. Children under 10 with leukemia have a better survival success rate. Jack entered the "maintenance phase" of treatment in July, and will continue with monthly treatments at Roswell Park and spinal chemotherapy treatments through March 2013 to ensure he is cancer-free.
Van de Wal explained the importance of participating in Relay For Life.
"Cancer affects way too many people," she said. "It takes a financial toll, so the support from the community is really important."
To support survivors like Jack, caregivers play a very important role. Caregivers help people who are battling cancer by supporting them physically and emotionally. This year's honorary caregiver is extraordinary because he is not a direct caregiver, but is proof the support given to those who are battling cancer is the greatest gift. His name is William Sherman and he has been a caregiver for a cancer survivor and one who has lost her life to cancer.
Sherman is optimistic about this year's theme in the Relay - the more we fight, the further we get, the more people will be celebrating their birthdays.
"It shows caregivers they are an important aspect to helping those battling cancer," he said. "Being a caregiver is part of the whole picture."
Sherman explained the importance of being there for others. He recently lost his sister to a 10-year battle with the disease. He was there for her physically and emotionally and it helped her to remain positive and cheerful from what was supposed to be only a two-week battle after learning she had cancer.
"I want everyone to know those who participate in the Relay are all caregivers," he said. "It means supporting all who have battled or have died from cancer."
Registration for the Relay begins at 10:30 a.m. and the ceremony starts at noon. The Survivor's Lap marks the beginning of the eventful day. Survivors join together on the Lew-Port High School track to celebrate their victory over cancer. The mission is to create a world with more birthdays. Participants will receive lap necklaces; runners will earn a bead for every lap completed.
After jogging a few laps, take a break with the many treats offered. Along with the famous traveling tacos, a favorite of last year's Relay, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and baked goods also will be served.
Children can have fun at the ceremony, too. From 2 to 8 p.m., children are welcomed to participate in the many activities offered. A few include a bounce house, a scavenger hunt, Kan-Jam and a dolphin dash relay.
The caregiver's coffee hour will be held at 3 p.m.
In the mood for good food? Chiavetta's barbecue chicken will be served from 4 to 7 p.m. by the Lew-Port faculty, staff and volunteers on the high school track. The dinner costs $8.50 presale and $9 the day of the event. It includes chicken, salad and a roll. Dinner can be purchased or picked up at the Survivor's Tent or at the drive-up bus shelter in the front of the school. All the proceeds raised will benefit the American Cancer Society.
The fun continues throughout the day. There will also be a bike raffle, a basket raffle, a water balloon toss, a hula-hoop contest and musical chairs.
Remembering the lives lost to cancer is an important part of the Relay. After dusk, the Luminaria Ceremony will honor all whose lives have been touched by the disease. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand that carry a person's name that has been affected by cancer. Participants will walk a lap around the track in silence.
Fighting back is perhaps the most significant part of the ceremony. The Fight Back Ceremony begins at midnight. Runners will take their final lap around the track to make a commitment to save lives by fighting the disease.
Relay For Life will be held on Saturday, June 18, at the Lewiston-Porter High School track, 4061 Creek Road. The cost is a $10 registration fee.