Relay for Life a fun event for a serious cause

 

During the Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony, paper bags in honor of those affected by cancer are lit around the track and burn throughout the night. Events are scheduled for June 3 at Delaware State University’s football stadium and Silver Lake Park in Middletown. (Submitted photo/Central Delaware Relay for Life)

During the Relay for Life Luminaria Ceremony, paper bags in honor of those affected by cancer are lit around the track and burn throughout the night. Events are scheduled for June 3 at Delaware State University’s football stadium and Silver Lake Park in Middletown. (Submitted photo/Central Delaware Relay for Life)

 

DOVER –– Over the past month, Relay for Life events have taken place all over the state and the two last local Relays of the season –– Middletown and Central Delaware –– are scheduled for June 3.

Relay for Life is an overnight walking relay that raises funds to support the American Cancer Society’s mission to find cures, provide services like Road to Recovery, Look Good Feel Better and the 24/7 National Cancer Information Center help line.

Every Relay begins at dusk with an opening ceremony honoring cancer patients, survivors and those who have lost their battle with cancer.

After the sun goes down, Relay takes advantage of the low light with a Luminaria Ceremony. Paper bags, in the name of someone affected by cancer, are lit with candles to light up the track.

“It’s really moving. We turn off all the stadium lights so all you see is the luminaries,” said Central Delaware Relay Chairman Brendan Condon. “During the ceremony, we have a choir perform and people share remembrance poems for those they’ve lost.”

In Middletown, after the Luminaria Ceremony, the first walk around the track is taken by patients, survivors and caregivers. After that first lap, teams are welcome to take to the track.

Although cancer is a serious topic, after the opening ceremonies, the Relay isn’t –– it’s a fun celebration of life and organizers come up with lots of interesting ideas to keep spirits high and minds awake from dusk until dawn.

“The key is to have a great DJ,” Mr. Condon said. “And I emcee our Relay so I have a microphone all night and do everything I can to keep people awake and having fun.”

Plenty of activities are scheduled too from costume contests to tug of wars, balloon tosses and even eating contests.

“We have a committee that meets just to plan the activities,” said Mary Ward Hutchison, co-chairperson of the Middletown Relay. “Since it’s an overnight event, some people have a hard time staying awake so we try to have lots of things to keep them occupied.”

Luckily none of the participants are alone in pulling an all-nighter. Participants work in teams to keep at least one person on track throughout the whole event.

Teams can be any size and are formed from friends and family, churches, sororities and even workplaces.

“I work for Walgreens and it’s actually what first got me into Relay eight years ago,” Mr. Condon said. “We do a lot of community outreach and events so I tried it out and I thought it was a great cause.”

Some of Central Delaware’s returning teams are State Farm, Target, a group of New Yorkers and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority from DSU which always brings a crowd.

Teams don’t work together just the night of the Relay, they work together throughout the year to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Middletown’s event has consistently been the largest in the state over its 18 years and has raised more than $3 million. So far this year, 67 teams have raised $85,000 and Central Delaware has 27 registered teams and $26,000 raised.

Although the Relay is all about fun, raising money for the fight against cancer is also important because the American Cancer Society estimates that 5,630 people will be newly diagnosed with cancer and 2,050 will die of cancer in the coming year.

It’s not too late to register for either. Teams can sign up at relayforlife.org or even at the event on June 3.

Most teams don’t come dressed in just any clothes, though. Every Relay has a theme and Middletown’s is Super Heroes while Central Delaware’s is Mardi Gras.

“It’s always a lot of fun to see everyone in their costumes,” Ms. Hutchison said. “And it will be fun for the kids too who will be able to go int the bouncy house with their favorite super hero.”

Throughout the night, teams collect points for various challenges and accomplishments including the quality of their costumes.

Some of the challenges include a three-legged race, a frozen T-shirt challenge and a cross dressing relay race.

No matter when you walk or what activities you participate in, everyone is welcome to bring tents, lawn chairs or sleeping bags to turn the Relay into a mini-town for the night.

Both Relays will end soon after sunrise on June 4 with the announcement of award winners before an official closing ceremony.

Middletown’s Relay will be held at Silver Lake Park and Central Delaware’s is at Delaware State University’s football stadium. For more information and a complete schedule for each event, visit relayforlife.org.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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