by Ruthanne Brown – American Cancer Society Media & Publicity Senior Volunteer
CLARK — The American Cancer Society is extending an invitation to residents of Union County and surrounding communities to join them for a twelve-hour, overnight “Birthday Party” to celebrate cancer survivorship and hope at the fourth annual Relay For Life of Clark.
This gathering has a very significant meaning, more so than a usual birthday get together. Relay For Life offers cancer survivors and their loved ones a chance to celebrate all the additional candles on their cakes since their time of diagnosis. The combination camp-out, party, remembrance ceremony and walk-a-thon, is symbolic to cancer survivors all over the world who have now become part of “a world with more birthdays”.
The rain-or-shine event will be held on Friday, June 10, at Arthur L. Johnson High School, 365 Westfield Avenue, Clark. Registration/Check-In opens at 4 p.m. Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. The relay will continue throughout the night ending at 6 a.m. the following morning.
Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature event and is unlike any typical fundraising walk. It’s a unique and fun opportunity for all members of the community to make a serious difference in the fight against cancer while celebrating life, hope for the future, and a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Relay For Life is an opportunity for people to come together, to honor cancer survivors and to remember those who lost their battle with this devastating disease. This life-changing event not only raises donations for the American Cancer Society, but raises awareness by educating the community in ways to effectively fight back against cancer.
During the twelve-hour celebration, individuals and teams camp-out and picnic, while walking or running around a track “relay” style. Each team tries to have a representative on the track at all times for the duration of the overnight event. Contributions collected at Relay For Life of Clark support research, education, advocacy and patient services.
Last year, close to 1,300 participants at the Clark Relay raised $227,076.18 in donations for the American Cancer Society. Relay For Life of Clark was one of the “Top Ten Relays” in the state of New Jersey in 2010.
In 2009 and 2010, the Clark event featured the “Most Survivors to Pack The Track” in the New Jersey Metro Region. Last year, 205 cancer survivors walked side-by-side during the opening Survivor Celebration Lap.
Despite the troubled economy, the RFL Volunteer Planning Committee is hopeful that the 2011 event will be equally as successful as the previous year. Most donations are collected and turned in to the American Cancer Society in the months and weeks prior to the event. Donations toward Relay For Life of Clark will be accepted prior to the day of the event online, by regular mail, or at the registration area on the day of the event.
Everyone is welcome to participate in Relay For Life – new teams and individuals are welcome to join. Because of the large number of participants expected, pre-registration is suggested. However, last minute participants can sign-up at the registration area on the day of the event.
Cancer survivors of all types and ages are considered special guests and are invited to celebrate their triumph over cancer during the Opening Ceremonies, beginning at 6 p.m. The walk itself begins with the “Survivor Celebration Lap”, which is a truly uplifting experience. Survivors united in the cause proudly walk the track in the company of dozens of other survivors, a reminder to all that no one has to go through cancer diagnosis or treatment alone. Survivors are then joined by their caregivers, and very quickly, the festivities begin around the track with family members and friends joining in.
The most meaningful part of each Relay For Life event is the Luminaria Ceremony, which takes place at nightfall, around 10 p.m. During this emotional ceremony, volunteers and participants light thousands of candles, each one representing the life of an individual who has been touched by cancer. The candles illuminate the perimeter of the track and guide walkers during a “silent lap”. This is a time for those present to remember and reflect on those who lost their battle to cancer and to honor the lives of survivors who continue their personal fight each day against this disease. The candles are left burning throughout the night to remind participants of the importance of community support and of each individual’s involvement in Relay For Life.
Entertainment and activities are scheduled throughout the night, featuring music from acoustic rock band Backyard Heroes. Team raffles, mini-fundraisers, and an ACS “Relay Store” will be open to raise additional funds at the event. There will be games and contests for kids and adults of all ages.
Relay participants can become empowered by learning to effectively battle cancer in a number of ways. One way is by joining the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (“ACS CAN”). ACS supports the belief that everyone should have fair and equal access to quality medical care. Those who become members of ACS CAN make a direct impact on decisions regarding legislation and funding for disease prevention and early detection. ACS CAN is pushing for legislation to insure potentially lifesaving treatment for all diagnosed, regardless of economic status. For information on The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, visit the Mission & Advocacy Tent from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, first held in Tacoma, Washington in 1985, has raised over $3.5 billion at more than 5,000 events across the USA. In addition to Clark Township, 102 other communities in New Jersey will be hosting their own Relay events.
“Relay For Life is an opportunity for the community to get directly involved with the American Cancer Society and the fight against cancer,” said Christina Andrascik, ACS Director of Special Events. “Our mission is to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays by helping people stay well, by helping people get well, by finding cures and by fighting back.”
For event details, to make a donation, or to register online, visit the web at www.relayforlife.org/clarknj .
The American Cancer Society and the Township of Clark are ready to “fight back” at the fourth annual Relay For Life of Clark, which will take place on Friday evening, June 10. Volunteer team “Amici e Cugini”, lead by cancer survivor Cindy Kraus (4th from left) are among 88 teams registered for the upcoming event. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Faniello – Amici e Cugini team)
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