The 2013 Relay For Life season began in a full sprint with a kickoff rally Wednesday.
New teams and veteran Relayers gathered at Grand Island High School to award medals for 2012 and to begin the 2013 event, which will have an Olympic theme of "Going for the Gold."
The annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society was a record-breaker in 2012, said Jane Dent, staff partner from the American Cancer Society, with $163,000 raised. Relay Co-chair Candy Mye praised the GI teams because they not only surpassed the old record high total, "but knocked it out of the ballpark" by $40,000.
This year marks the 11th Relay on GI, Dent said, and during that time GI has raised $1,090,784, a milestone reached by only three Relays in WNY.
Relay 2013 Co-chairs Becky Sommer-Stufkosky and Lynn Dingey unfurled a banner noting GI was also honored as a Top 20 Relay in New York/New Jersey, from among 370 Relay events in the region. Dent called the achievement, for a town of 20,000, a "very distinctive honor."
Mye said the area is a smaller community, that lacks in population, but, "What we have is the heart, what we have is the spirit that gets us where we go. I can't tell you how much it means to know that you're all here tonight, and that you'll spread the word that we're still going strong even though we're going to be in a new location."
GIHS's capital project will necessitate a move from the 10-year home of the event at Masters Field to Veterans Park this year. The GI Relay For Life will take place Saturday, June 8, and Sunday, June 9, from 2 p.m. to 6 a.m. with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m., a luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m., and closing ceremony at 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
Past Relay For Life Honorary Survivor Lisa Dudley and Kathy Kraft introduced their co-worker, Ann Marie Silviski, of Fresenius Kabi USA, as the 2013 Honorary Survivor. Silviski is an eight-year breast cancer survivor
"She's inspired me every day I see her at work," Dudley said. "She's an inspiration to all. Her strength and passion and endurance, positive out look and sense of humor shine a light on everyone she comes into contact with. She has been our team captain for several years, and last year we raised over $20,000. Besides going through her own battles, she takes care of her family members, and she's friends to everyone at work."
Melissa Marciszewski, a fifth-grade teacher at Huth Road Elementary School, introduced her student, Emily Reynolds, as Honorary Caregiver.