For Carla Laporte, it all comes together in the Survivors’ Walk.
“The Survivors’ Walk is the first lap done by survivors of cancer,” Laporte explained. “It happens when we first open at 6 p.m., and it launches the Relay for Life.”
The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life will be held this Friday and Saturday, June 27 and 28, at the Pinkerton Academy track. The annual camp-in of cancer survivors and their supporters honors the living, pays tribute to those who have gone before, and raises funds so that cancer and its devastation can be kept at bay, and more survivors can walk.
Laporte, an employee in the business office of the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Londonderry, said the facility has participated for six years. There are 21 members on their “team,” she said, including office staff, medical staff and patients.
Laporte became personally involved when her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer. Other people she knew struggled with the disease. “Each year when I walk, it becomes more and more personal,” she observed.
The walk, a 16-hour event, celebrates cancer survivors and remembers those who were not as fortunate, Laporte said. It begins Friday at 6 p.m., and continues through 10 a.m. Saturday, and there’s always someone walking on the track during the event.
“The team members take turns,” Laporte said. “We always have at least one person out on the track.” Each team member is responsible for raising $100 in pledges, and that’s usually not hard, she said.
Back at the campsite they’re swapping stories, bonding with new friends, and raising even more money for cancer research. This year they’ll have a Knock Out Cancer game, with empty soda bottles representing various types of cancer and an ice-cream stand at $1 a scoop. Another game involves six bras hung on a cardboard wall, with the game player trying to toss a Ping-Pong ball into the cup for various points. But the event doesn’t just focus on breast cancer, she added, saying, “It’s all cancers.”
Dana-Farber had been raising money for months before the Relay, Laporte added. They’ve had a flea market/yard sale, sold candy bars and conducted a successful 50/50 raffle.
The atmosphere of the Relay night is like going to a party, Laporte said. “It’s exceptional, upbeat, fun,” she said. “We pitch our tent next to other teams, we see groups of people we haven’t seen all year.” Sometimes they dress up in costume, she said.
There is one somber moment, Laporte added, and that’s the Luminaria Walk. The track is lined with luminarias, and people walk in honor and remembrance of those who “didn’t make it.”
“It’s a one-hour walk, in silence,” Laporte said. “It’s an opportunity to remember.”
As of press time, the combined total for the Derry/Londonderry event was 67 teams, 565 walkers and $83,598 raised. For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org.