Lighting The Way To Hope

CLARK – There are times when bad things bring good people together.
Earlier this month, an entire community met up in a schoolyard to pitch tents, camp out all night and enjoy a giant barbecue: all for the purpose of fighting cancer.

The massive group of campers met up on Friday, June 12, to take part in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Clark. More than $171,000 was raised during the annual event, which the Township of Clark has hosted for the second year in a row.

Top fundraising efforts were lead by Amici e Cugini, who raised $20,985, and Cranford/Rahway-based team Kiss Away Cancer, who raised $19,286. Other top teams included Rahway Regional Cancer Center, Clark For A Cure, Racing For A Cure, and Purple Hearts of Clark. All 58 teams who worked to make this event a great success made significant contributions.

In addition to funds raised at the Clark Relay, the Borough of Roselle Park hosted their own Relay For Life event on June 6th, which raised $76,211. More than 300 participants, including 55 cancer survivors, were present to celebrate survivorship, remember those lost to cancer, and unite the community in an effort to fight back against this dreaded disease.

Contributions collected at Relay For Life support American Cancer Society programs such as research, advocacy, disease prevention, education, and patient services for Union County residents.

The walk officially began when Jackie Shrubsall cut the ribbon at the start of the Survivor Celebration Lap. Jackie was diagnosed with kidney cancer when she was a baby. Jackie is now eight years old, and has been cancer free since the age of five. She is the youngest of all cancer survivors registered at the Clark relay event. After cutting the ribbon, Shrubsall was followed by a wall of cancer survivors who flooded the track, walking together in celebration of their triumph over the disease.

More than 1,000 registered participants took turns walking, running or wheeling around the track throughout the night to raise funds while bringing cancer awareness to the Union County community.

At the start of the Luminaria Ceremony, a tradition at all Relay events, close to 1200 candles were lit to honor cancer survivors, and to remember those who did not survive their battle. During the ceremony, “Eternal Flame Awards” were given by the American Cancer Society in recognition of three individuals who have taken their “cancer experience” and turned it around into something positive by helping others facing the disease.

The “Caregiver Award” was given to Cindy Kraus of Garwood, who was nominated by her husband, Ray Kraus. Cindy is no stranger to cancer – it runs rampant through her family. She is a breast cancer survivor who has cared for many family members, including her mother, who she lost to cancer. Cindy also received the Eternal Flame Award for “Survivor” three years ago.

An Eternal Flame was awarded “In Honor of” Claire Brown, a survivor from Cranford who was nominated by her daughter, Ruthanne Brown. Claire was chosen because she has set an example by “showing her hope” to others touched by cancer. She was part of a cancer study at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that helped pave the way for more effective treatment against breast cancer. Claire is involved with Insight Cancer Support Group, and has been an American Cancer Society volunteer almost since her diagnosis fourteen years ago.

The “In Memory of” Eternal Flame was awarded to the family of Jean Wells, who passed away after her courageous three year battle with lung cancer. She was nominated by her daughter, Deborah Wells-Payne because of her “testimony to others fighting the disease”. No matter what Jean faced during her last days, according to son-in-law, Tyrone Payne, “she was always positive. She encouraged others to continue fighting and to never give up”. Jean continued to inspire others until the end.

“The American Cancer Society appreciates the overwhelming support from Clark and surrounding communities,” said Beatriz Newborn, ACS Special Events Manager. “Our gratitude goes out to the many volunteers for their months of hard work to make Relay For Life a reality. They represent hope that those lost to cancer will not be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that the disease will one day be eliminated.”

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature event, with over 3.5 million people joining since its very humble beginning in 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt ran 83 miles alone on a track in Tacoma, Washington to raise funds and awareness to fight this awful disease.

Those who are interested in learning about next year’s Relay For Life of Clark may call the American Cancer Society at 973-736-7771 or visit the web at

Supporters and participants fill the stands during Opening Ceremonies

Jackie Shrubsall gets ready to cut the ribbon before  the  Opening Survivor Celebration Lap

Survivors walk with their Caregivers at Opening Ceremonies
**Photos Courtesy of Christina Boucher**

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