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Island of Hope: Combating cancer with every step

•Taken from April 17 Islandwide Dispatch

Mon, Apr 27th 2015 07:00 am

By Casey Dahlstrom

Missy Stolfi was asked by her students seven years ago to serve as the advisor of a new group at her school called Relay For Life, and with high hopes she joined in a fight that she never imagined could grow so fast. Stolfi now serves as the American Cancer Society's staff partner for the Relay For Life of Grand Island, an overnight fundraising walk against cancer, and is excited by the strong community support.

"Relay is so much more than a walk. It's a celebration, a memorial, a block party, a team-builder, and a demonstration of all that is best about a community," says Stolfi. "Grand Island Relayers have so much passion and drive. They are incredibly supportive of one another, of their cancer survivors and caregivers, and also of the rest of the Western New York Relay community."

While this will be Stolfi's first Relay For Life as Grand Island's staff partner, she is not new to the fight. When Stolfi was just 9 years old, she watched her grandfather lose his battle with pancreatic cancer in just three months. And like many others, she fights back.

"One thing that is magical about Relay is that it brings people together who may not have otherwise connected. It also creates an understanding across any personal difference or backgrounds we may have, and inspires us to work together, contribute what we can to the fight, and collectively brings out the best of us, because we ARE better than cancer!"

Stolfi points out that the funds raised by Relay make a larger splash in Western New York than many donors realize. In addition to research grants at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the University at Buffalo, patient benefits include the Buffalo Hope Lodge, Look Good Feel Better classes for women, Mary's Wig Room in Amherst, strong health care system relationships and more.

Grand Island's 13th annual Relay, themed "One World, One Hope: Imagine Our World with a Cure," returns to Veteran's Park May 30 with the doors opening at 4 p.m. and the opening ceremony and traditional survivor lap commencing at 6 p.m. Entertainment, raffles, dances and competitions kickoff the event.

After the Luminaria Ceremony, which reflects on those who lost their battle with cancer, three artists from Pinot's Palette will host 45 painters to create custom Relay-themed masterpieces, and the Ultimate Lip Sync Battle Royale will decide a grand champion. And as dawn breaks, so will a new wave of hope and courage to continue fighting back against cancer.

"Being at Relay in the wee hours of the morning is a really special time of peace and accomplishment. The best way to understand Relay is to come experience it for yourself! Invite your friends and family from other communities to join you and see what makes GI's Relay special," Stolfi said.

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