Hundreds of Islanders partied like rock stars May 31 and June 1 during the 12th annual Relay For Life at Veterans Park.
The fundraiser for the American Cancer Society had a theme of "Rock-out Cancer," with Relay team members decked out in concert regalia or otherwise ready to rock.
Honorary cancer survivor Casey Dahlstrom said during the event's opening ceremony that his battle in childhood with acute lymphatic leukemia, a rapidly progressing blood cancer, was "a learning experience" that helped him appreciate the little things in life. "The friends I made, swimming in the river, taking a walk with pollen, grass clippings and other allergens in the air," Dahlstrom said. "I rock-climbed, danced the night away, flew down zip lines, soared in hot air balloons, hung a boa constrictor around my neck, and raced around Watkins Glen race track at 120 miles per hour ... all by the time I was 8 years old - because I had cancer."
"You are the reason that we have raised over $1 million since we began. You are the reason that deaths from cancer have dropped 20 percent in the last 20 years," Dahlstrom told the Relay teams. "But we're not done yet."
"As we prepare for the survivor lap to open up Relay, my gift to each survivor is a daily reminder wallet card that says, 'The only difference between those who threw in the towel and quit and those who used the energy to rebuild and kept going is found in the word 'hope,'" Dahlstrom said. "No matter how bad things get, or how lost you feel, you must promise me that you will hold on to hope. We have to be greater than what we suffer. What better way, then, is there to live?"
Alex Hamberger of the American Cancer Society said that advancements like the 20 percent reduction in cancer deaths since 1991, and the fact that almost 400 people will celebrate a birthday each day that otherwise would have been lost to cancer are attributable to those who Relay and raise money to find a cure. "And when, not if, when our ACS-funded researchers and scientists find the cures and prevention therapies for cancer, I hope each of you will shout from the rooftops that you did that, because you are making that possible here tonight," Hamberger said.
Watch a clip of Rock Angel: