For Sayville native Carolyn Ruggiero the Sayville Relay for Life event is more than just a good cause that raises funds to help save lives from cancer.
It’s a way to remember two very dear family members, her grandfather Giovanni Ruggiero who passed 20 years ago from prostate cancer and grandmother Nancy Picchiello who over three years ago from ovarian cancer. It’s also a way to help the countless numbers who are fighting the despicable disease each and every day.
The 24-year-old first participated in the overnight walkathon fundraiser while attending Sayville Middle School.
“There were tons of flyers all over the school and in town and everyone was talking about how amazing of a cause and how fun the event is,” recalled Ruggiero who now serves as a committeeperson for the event.
“I wanted to get involved as a participant to pay it forward and really celebrate the loss of so many people in my family. Since then I have many more reasons,” she told Patch in an email interview.
When she first got involved the number of participants was huge and the event was one of the biggest in town. But over the years participation has dwindled. Ruggiero is intent on stemming that trend and making Relay for Life once again one of the most successful charity events.
“That’s the reason I got on the committee. I want to help get people back and experience this amazing and fun event for all ages,” she said, noting that several years have seen increased involvement with hundreds participating.
The three-fold focus of Relay for Life, an event held nationwide to support the American Cancer Society, is to celebrate the lives of those who battled cancer, remember those lost to the disease and fight back to put an end to cancer.
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Participants can do it on an individual basis or as part of a team effort. There is no set number of laps around the track to meet and various mini-events are held during the overnight fundraiser.
This year’s event will be held Saturday June 15 to June 16 from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. at the Sayville Middle School. A survivor reception begins at 5 p.m, the opening ceremony is at 6 p.m. and a luminary ceremony is held at 9 p.m.
The first step to being involved is attending the Sayville event’s kick-off meeting slated for Feb. 12 at the 7 p.m. at the Sayville Middle School. Those wanting more information before the meeting can email Ruggiero at CarolynGRuggiero@gmail.com or check out the event’s Facebook page.
After 11 years of participating, Ruggiero said she is just as inspired and eager to be involved as she was as a 14-year-old.
“At that young age I learned what and how one community and its surrounding communities can to do 'Paying it Forward' and learned what it truly means all in one night,” she said.
“Relay for Life is super fun,” she added, noting her top advice for newbies is to drink caffeine and be “ready for an amazing night of fun and awareness for a great cause.”