Walking, running, however the strides are taken, every step means one step closer to the eradication of cancer.
Just in time for its 20th Anniversary, the Relay for Life of Greater Derry/Londonderry will be uniting communities against cancer on June 16 at 6 p.m. – June 17 at 8 a.m. at Pinkerton Academy.
The Relay event will consist of members of every team taking turns walking or running around the track or path at the school. Teams have been raising funds for months leading up to the event, with all proceeds going towards freeing the world from the pain of cancer. After the Relay walk, all participants will be able to enjoy overnight activities including music, a photo booth, dunk tank, games, and prize drawings.
Derry resident and Greater Derry/Londonderry Relay for Life Chairperson, Jackie Leavitt, and Londonderry resident and co-chair, Bonnie Roberts, are two among hundreds of local Relayers who will be covering ground to make an impact.
The disease has closely affected Leavitt, an American Cancer Society volunteer of five years, having lost a close friend, stepmother, and aunt to cancer. Both of her parents and her stepfather are cancer survivors.
“I feel like a ticking time bomb,” said Leavitt, explaining that her involvement with the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life was a way for her to use her organization skills to help her feel like she can make a difference.
Leavitt said that she enjoys working with cancer survivors at the Relays. She puts together the survivor and caregiver dinner and the survivor ceremonies (this year there will be a Luminaria Ceremony at 9 p.m. to celebrate life and remember those lost), and loves to hear their stories. Sadly, she stated that this year some of the survivors had passed away.
“They were part of our Relay family,” she said, and although the news of those passing hit her particularly hard, she stated that they are the reason she keeps going.
There will be a special dinner reception thanks to Amphora Fine Greek Dining for survivors and their caregivers right after the opening ceremony on June 16 where honored guests will receive a signature purple survivor t-shirt, along with entertainment and drawings just for them. All survivors are encouraged to attend, even if they are not part of a team, and let Relay for Life celebrate their victory.
Leavitt’s one-woman team, “All Night for the Fight” has the goal of raising $1,500 for the American Cancer Society. According to Leavitt, during the Relay’s 20-year run, the collaborative efforts of millions have raised over $2,000,000 for the society. But their efforts don’t stop there.
“We really hope this year we can get as many past participants to join us again,” Leavitt said. She explained that some go on to join other charities, or their loved one passes away and they don’t return after that. Whatever the reason, Leavitt hopes to reach out to those who have come and gone over the past two decades to rejoin the fight.
Roberts, who has been involved with the American Cancer Society for 12 years, says that her involvement began because, “Sometimes it takes those small steps to make big differences.”
Roberts explained that she’s had a number of friends, and clients of her local business, Home Helpers of Londonderry, that have been affected by cancer, and the amount seems to keep multiplying. She further mentioned that a lot of her clients are cancer survivors.
“Every time I think I can step away, someone gets diagnosed, or dies…” Roberts said. “And it’s like, ‘I can’t quit’…”
Roberts is known as the “Queen of Fun” as she is a big part in assisting with the entertainment side of the Relay for Life. She said that while the event is about families and memorials, it is also about celebrating life. She mentioned that there is an effort to reach out to Londonderry High School and Pinkerton Academy, as well as West Running Brook and other schools to make the day, “an event that transcends generations.” She reiterated that while the purpose of the event was to fundraise, the coordinators were also there to make it fun, so that people would want to return year after year.
Roberts said that thanks to the generosity of her husband and his company, her team, “Hope Helpers” which consists of her and staff of Home Helpers of Londonderry, have already been able to reach their monetary goal, but they won’t stop there.
“A goal is a goal until it’s broken, and then it becomes a new goal.” Roberts stated. “My goal is to do what I can do eradicate cancer, and you can’t put a dollar amount on that. I do what I can, and every dollar is a dollar more than we have today…but it’s never enough until cancer is gone.”
For more information regarding this year’s Relay For Life, visit Relayforlife.org/derryandlondonderrynh, or call the American Cancer Society at (603) 471-4112 or (800) 227-2345. Visit the Greater Derry/Londonderry Relay for Life’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ GDLRelayForLife