Relay for Life Celebrates 20 Years in Milford

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By Terry Rogers

From Friday, June 16 at 6 pm until Saturday, June 17 at 6 am, cancer survivors, their supporters and those who are working to eradicate the disease will walk the track at the former Milford Middle School for the annual Relay for Life. The event honors the memory of those who have been lost to the disease, celebrates those who are fighting the battle as well as those who have won the battle. It also brings awareness to the work being done to fight the illness. This will be the 20th anniversary of Relay for Life in Milford.

“The event was brought here by Gary Emory and the late Herb Burbage,” Connie Pusey, one of the Co-Chair of the event, said. “In celebration of our 20th year, we will have food trucks, a 5k race in conjunction with the Greater Milford Chamber of Commerce and a laser light show which, we have been told, has never been done in this area. We will also have children’s activities.”

Ms. Pusey said that there are 24 teams registered to date for the event and teams can still register to participate. Participants do not have to be a member of a team to join Relay for Life and the group is encouraging the community to come out and support the walkers.

Relay for Life is a national event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The event is staffed and coordinated by volunteers that believe it is time to take action against cancer. At the event, teams take turns walking around the Middle School track. Teams are asked to have one member on the track at all times to signify that cancer never sleeps and that cancer patients do not stop because they are tired. The relay is a symbolic way to show that those who are supporting loved ones, working to find cures or who have or are battling the disease will not stop.

Each team holds fund raisers throughout the year to collect money that is then donated to the American Cancer Society. At the event, teams set up themed campsites in order to continue collecting donations. When team members are not walking, they visit other campsites and staff their own throughout the night. There is a Survivor Lap where cancer survivors and people currently battling cancer walk the track to cheers from those who are in attendance. The Caregiver Lap recognizes those that provide support for loved ones battling the disease.

“It is hard to pinpoint highlights of these events,” Ms. Pusey said. “The Luminaria is always touching as is the Survivor Reception.” After sunset, Luminarias are lit to remember those who have been lost, to celebrate cancer survivors and to show those affected by cancer that they are not alone. They are lit just after sunset as a symbolic way to eliminate the darkness felt by any patient who has been diagnosed with the disease. Each luminaria has the name of a person who is fighting, has won or who has been lost to cancer and some also contain heartfelt messages. Luminaria can be dedicated through the American Cancer Society website with donations dedicated to a participant, team or the entire event.

Nationally, Relay for Life has raised almost $800,000 for the American Cancer Society since it began in May 1985. Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, in an effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society and to bring awareness to the fight against cancer. Friends, family and patients watched and supported him throughout the night while he covered almost 84 miles and raised $27,000. As he walked and ran, Dr. Klatt thought about ways he could get others to join the fight and envisioned a 24-hour fund raising event. The next year, 19 teams joined the event at the Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000. Dr. Klatt passed away in 2014 of heart failure as he was battling stomach cancer, but his legacy continues with the annual Relay for Life.

Individuals or teams who wish to participate can visit www.relayforlife.org and enter 19963 for the zip code. They can also reach out to Ellen Hall, Chairman of the event, at 302-745-7354 or Connie Pusey at 302-670-7576. 

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