“I walk for my father.” “I walk for my aunt.” “I walk for my best friend.”
This weekend is the 24-hour American Cancer Society’s Foothills Relay for Life event being held over at Clark Magnet High School. The Relay is a mega-fundraiser for the society, but more than that, it’s a way for our community to join together to share stories and gather strength; to celebrate the victories and remember the losses.
Relay begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday on the field at Clark off New York Avenue. Walking onto the track, you’ll see pop ups and tents dotting the grassy field set up by the various teams taking part. Over on the far north side is where the food is being prepared and served, much if not all donated by local merchants. Not too far from that is the stage which has information and music spilling forth for a majority of the 24 hours.
Celebrate. Relay begins with the survivors lap. Cancer survivors are easily identified by their purple shirts and it is a wonderful thing to see them walk under the balloon arch to mark the beginning of the event.
From that point on every team – over 20 are signed up – will have a member walking the track for the next 24 hours.
Remember. Ask anyone walking and you’ll hear a story of how cancer has affected their life. Growing up I lost people to cancer – Chucky Wolfe was a teenager like me when he died and cancer got my grandma over on the east coast – but the hit was especially hard when my father-in-law John Goldsworthy was diagnosed.
A tough talking, bigger-than-life kind of guy, John was reduced to a shell of his former self at the end of his 18-month fight. He died in 1989.
In the mid-90s my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Not particularly surprising considering that she had smoked her whole life. But even removing a lung didn’t save her as the cancer had spread to her brain. Diagnosed in February, she died April 29, 1996.
My stories aren’t unusual unfortunately. Like I said, everyone at Relay has a tale.
One of the most moving parts of the event is the luminaria ceremony that takes place around 9 p.m. At the front of the stage all Relay participants receive an unlit candle, then gather to hear testimonies from fighters, caregivers and survivors. A single candle is lit which ignites another which ignites another until everyone is holding a lit candle. The electric lights are extinguished and the crowd moves as one behind a bagpiper slowly making his way around the field. The field has been trimmed with white lunch-sized bags that have a small lit votive inside. The tiny light illuminates the name on the bag, a name of someone’s loved one who battled cancer.
The luminaria ceremony is a major part of Relay and though it is rare to see someone with a dry eye, it’s a wonderful thing to experience.
Fight back. Though the subject of cancer is a sober one, Relay is not a somber event. How can it be when you have pop ups decorated with brassieres celebrating the survival of breast cancer? Or seeing a teenager dressed like a pancreas walking the track to remind people of pancreatic cancer? Or having a woman – Regan Boone – vow to shave her head if she receives $3,000 in donations? There’s laughter, creativity, and an atmosphere of (to quote Charlie Sheen) winning.
As I mentioned before, Relay is a major fundraiser. To make a donation you can visit www.relayforlife.com and choose a team to donate to (I’m part of Prom Plus) or you can show up on Saturday and write a check. You can come out and walk anytime between 9 a.m. on Saturday until 9 a.m. on Sunday. It doesn’t cost anything to walk.
Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.
Robin Goldsworthy is the publisher
of the Crescenta Valley Weekly.
She can be reached at
or (818) 248-2740.