By Jeff LaBonte
The 11th annual Relay for Life at Lemansky Park kicked off Friday evening with over 40 teams and hundreds of participants. The annual event is a moving tribute to cancer survivors, those who lost their battle with the disease, and the families, friends, and caregivers supporting cancer patients.
Commencing with a singing of the National Anthem, remarks by local dignitaries and Relay organizers and recognition of the survivors in attendance, the Relay got underway with the traditional ‘Survivor’s Lap.’ This was followed by the ‘Caregiver’s Lap’, and then the walking got underway.
The teams walked throughout the night and morning, wrapping up at noon on Saturday. Numerous vendors and sponsors set up tents offering everything from food to tee shirts to chair massages. Many of the teams, in addition to their campsites, had tables selling a wide variety of items to raise money for cancer research.
‘Crafting for a Cure’ was organized by Oxford Middle School 8th grader, Amber Belanger. While she had participated in Relay the last two years, this was her first time being a team captain.
“We lost 2 family members to cancer in the last year, and we are a big crafting family” said Belanger. “We have about 15 team members, and we’ll be making and selling crafts during the Relay.”
‘Cancer Terminators’ was another team organized by students, this time Auburn High Sophomore Meg Beauregard. “I walked last year, but this is my first year with my own team” said Beauregard.
She organized the team in honor of her father. She recruited friends Michelle Zheng, Shannon McGrath, Emily Warel, Monica Tran, Andrea Bolduc, and Sarah Cavanaugh. Several of the team members were also walking for their own relatives who battled or are battling cancer: Tran for her grandmother, Bolduc for her mother and Cavanaugh for her mother.
The ‘Terminators’ had a table full of baked goodies for sale that were sure to help raise additional money to go to cancer research.
Yet another inspirational moment from the Relay was the dozens of Liverpool FSC teammates that showed up to support Denise Gianfriddo of N. Brookfield. Gianfriddo is the mother of two Liverpool players, one in U14 and one in U9. Liverpool U14 girls coach Michelle Belvery explained “We normally have practice, but we told the girls to come here to walk in the Relay. Denise [Gianfriddo] and her girls didn’t know we were doing this.”
As of last night, according to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life web page, the Auburn Relay had raised over $52,000 in pledges so far. The final tally from this year’s event will be available later this week. The Auburn Relay for Life has raised over $1 million for cancer research in its 11 year run.
Congratulations and appreciation go out to all of the participants, volunteers and supporters working so tirelessly to help find a cure for a disease that touches nearly every one of our lives. Here are some additional photos from the event.