What does Relay for Life mean to me...?
I remember the first time I saw a Relay for Life event. I was in middle school and had gone to the park to run. I saw it and suddenly felt self-conscious that my usually quiet park was now overrun on this foggy morning.
I remember the first time I went to a Relay for Life event. My friend and teammate insisted that we stop by the event after our workout to visit her neighbor’s team since we were already there. Not knowing a soul, I tagged along and watched the people walking around and around laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Strangers smiled at strangers and new friendships were forged with every corner they passed.
I remember the first time I registered for a Relay for Life event. I was 15 and proud of myself for negotiating my ever daunting foe: technology. I remember not knowing where to begin but wanting to help in whatever way possible.
I remember the first time I went to a Relay for Life Captain meeting with our fearless founder. The committee was so welcoming to a plucky pair of teenagers. I took more notes than in all my previous years of science classes combined and tried to take in everything that surrounded me. They played a David M. Bailey song called “One More Day.” That song changed my life.
I remember the first time I went to a Relay for Life “day before set up.” There were four of us girls there and one brave mother as we tried to get a camping tent up that was missing instructions and probably parts. A stranger who had been walking at the park stopped to help us. We never used the tent anyway.
I remember the first time I attended Relay for Life as a team member. We sold Huggies and baked goods and danced to the music. We were just as high on life as we were on all the sugar we were consuming. We played cards with the Steelers mascot, Steely McBeam, and made friends from other teams. We waved our “Free Hugs” sign like a banner, much to the amusement of the older generations. When we tried to make our s’mores, we suddenly realized we didn’t have any skewers and so we tried to find sticks in the woods at midnight.
I remember the first time I sat on a dewy ground in front of the stage at Relay for Life listening to a “Fight Back” ceremony. The speaker’s words would ring through my ears for weeks after I first heard them bounce off the microphone at a park on a Saturday morning.
I remember the first time I saw the Luminaria ceremony at Relay for Life. The field that had been covered by darkness moments prior suddenly came alive with candle-lit bags honoring, supporting, and memorializing the loved ones from our communities. I walked through the luminaria lit field and read name after name. I didn’t have to know them to feel the loss and the impact.
I remember the first time I had a friend tell me they had cancer. It was a stomach dropping punch and I stumbled back against my bed. I had done my research and I had participated in the event for years and I had donated my time, money, and energy into all things American Cancer Society, yet that hadn’t stopped it from hitting close to home.
I remember the first time I felt like I had a family in my Relay for Life community. The people that you can turn to and run to and love like none other…the people who truly celebrate and remember and fight back…the people who would do anything to lighten the burden of another, even if that means taking a heavy weight on already loaded shoulders.
The American Cancer Society does incredible work and it has been my genuine honor to be able to take part in one fraction of that for one weekend each July. The past five Relay events that I have participated in have provided me with more than just good food, happy memories, and laughter—they’ve provided me with love, support, and hope.
This Saturday, we Relay again…for the names on the bags and the names in our hearts. For loved ones still fighting and those who have passed. This Saturday, I will spend my favorite 24 hours surrounded by some of the most generous and awe-inspiring people I have ever met.
Are you ready to Relay?
*For more information about the event, please click here.
**Please note, you do not have to be on a team to come to the event. Food, games, and prizes are available for anyone who wants to help an incredible cause.