By Dash Hegeman
At its core, the Relay For Life is about one thing: hope. Hope for another year with a loved one who has been given a terminal cancer diagnosis. Hope for new findings in cancer research. Hope for less evasive treatment options. But mostly, the Relay For Life is about the hope of a future where cancer is no longer a prevalent part of our society.
Every year, all across the United States, communities come together in the name of survivorship to raise money for the continuation of cancer research and last weekend, after much planning and preparation, Ellicottville and its surrounding communities did their part to contribute to the ongoing battle again cancer.
The beginning of any Relay For Life is always an emotionally charged experience. After the Ellicottville Central School Jazz Choir welcomed all the participants with a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Ellicottville Relay 2012 was officially up and running. Honorary Survivors Liz and Jerry Titus thanked everyone for supporting Relay and gave detailed stories about their experience with battling cancer, emphasizing how important it is to get proper screenings and if you are diagnosed with cancer how a positive attitude can make all the difference in the world.
That positive demeanor was evident during the Survivor Lap, where cancer survivors of all ages and backgrounds came together for a moment of commonality and support. So as the group of determined individuals came together and walked around the Ellicottville Central School track as a group of unwavering survivors the rest of the crowd stopped what they were doing to witness an emotional display of exactly what can be accomplished when you are determined to succeed. As the survivors made their way around the track, their family members, friends and caregivers alike stood in silence and watched a very impressive display of resolution. And with that, the 2012 Ellicottville Relay For Life was underway.
If you’ve never participated in a Relay, it is definitely an event to add to your list. Spending 12 hours at one single event may not sound ideal initially, but because of the format of Relay, the time really does fly by. You don’t have to walk the entire time, although it’s difficult not to try to get in as many laps as possible.
There are activities for all ages that really do make the time go fast. The Ellicottville Relay started at noon and before anyone knew it, it was already 6 p.m. and the event was half over. Maybe it was watching the kids throw themselves around in the bounce house, maybe it was participating in the various Theme Laps (anyone up to “Do the Twist”), or maybe it was listening to DJ Danny LaCroix spin tunes for the first part of the afternoon and then rocking out to the live music of the Midnight Riders. Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter was that people were having a great time and helping to raise money for future cancer research and local cancer support systems.
The raising of addition funds took place in many ways and many of them were delicious. Relay teams were selling everything from tacos in a bag to deep-fried Oreos. There were chocolate-dipped strawberries, chicken BBQ, hot dogs, hamburgers, flavored ice cones, ice cream and much more. As you can probably gather, the walking really is an instrumental part of Relay, if for no other reason than to work off some of the food that you can’t help but consume throughout the day.
At one point, there was the threat of rain later in the afternoon. It started off as a slight mist and then suddenly raindrops were falling out of the sky. Many of the people walking around the track were undeterred, however, and after only a few short minutes the rain was gone, the clouds started to clear and just over the horizon a magnificent double rainbow began to form. Over the next few minutes, the rainbow illumination got brighter and brighter, and eventually every camera at Relay was pointed towards the sky. It was a fitting natural spectacle, which exemplified the day.
As the evening went on, volunteers began to place luminaria bags (white bags with a candle inside and special messages written on them to people who have had cancer) around the track. Just after 9 p.m., with all the luminaria bags in place, people began to light the candles, and once that task was complete, the lights above the track were turned off and the Luminaria Ceremony began. Words cannot describe the magnitude of emotions that you feel as you take place in the Luminaria Ceremony. The ceremony itself is something that will leave a lifelong impression on you. Soon after the Luminaria Ceremony was finished, the 2012 Ellicottville Relay For Life concluded.
Every year, this is an event that takes a lot of planning and preparation to make happen, but in the end it is always well worth everyone’s time and efforts. A special thanks goes out to the corporate sponsors: Coffee Culture, the Ellicottville Volunteer Fire Department, the Great Valley Fire Department, YNN (Your News Now), Southern Tier Wellness Partnership and Southern Tier Health Care System.
If you couldn’t make it to this year’s Relay but would still like to contribute to the cause, go to www.relayforlife.org and search for the Ellicottville event. Donations can still be made.