Cancer never sleeps and neither did the 250 participants in the Relay for Life at the on June 18 and 19.
For 12 hours straight, from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., the participants in the sixth annual fundraising event to fight cancer walked the Middle School track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event.
In total, 22 teams came out to this year’s event, raising more than $22,000 at the start of the night. Event chairperson Melissa McManus has been heading up the fundraiser for the last six years.
“I started to get involved because my dad is a survivor,” she said. She said attendance at this year’s event was on par with year’s past.
After a beautiful, heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace,” one of the attendees, Jess Pelluso, took to the stage to present a song written for the occasion. With guitar in hand, Jess performed “White Wings” as a tribute to the Relay for Life.
The Relay began with a Survivors Lap, an inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together. With the “Rocky” theme song piping over the loudspeakers, the survivors made their way around the track, Melissa’s dad among them. They were followed by the Caregivers.
After dark, the event honors people who have been touched by cancer and remembers loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer. All the lights at the field are shut down and the event becomes silent as people reflect their loved ones lost.
The tents that lined the Middle School field each held people affected by the disease. This year’s theme was “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” so many participants brought life sized Santa figures, Christmas lights, Christmas trees and lawn ornaments.
The top fundraising team, Patsy’s Gang, is there in memory of Patricia, who passed away from cancer four years ago, her husband said. There are 15 to 18 family members and friends who gather here each year and his son Bill LePage of East Islip plays the bagpipes during the Luminaria Ceremony.
Team Shine, consisting of Danielle and Nicole and their children, were there for the first time this year. They lost two people, a grandmother and more recently a father in law, to cancer.
Carolyn Ruggiero, a 2006 graduate of Sayville High School, has been participating since the event started here. It’s her first year as a committee member and she actually has two teams participating this year. “I lost my grandmother to the disease and it’s a nice time for the family to come together to remember her. I also have many other family members who have been affected by the disease,” she said.
Each of the teams was also holding their own fundraising efforts at their individual tents. Zeta Sigma Phi had dozens of Chinese auction baskets filled with goodies and gift certificates up for grabs. The Smile Project set up a table selling smile cookies for $5. The project is the vision of Daniel Rudin and his brother Matt.
There was also food and entertainment throughout the evening and into the early morning hours. The Committee to Re-elect Millard Fillmore started out the night and was followed by a Zumba class, “Pop” String Quartet, Jester Jim, Fire by Jesse and Midnight Madness. Hamburgers and hot dogs were on the grill, courtesy of Old World Fine Foods in Bohemia.