More than a few people at Newtown’s milestone 10th Relay for Life brushed away tears while viewing photos of loved ones lost on the event’s wall of remembrance, during the poignant opening ceremonies, and during the luminary procession.
But the combination of fair weather, camaraderie, and nonstop, upbeat activities helped put smiles on most faces throughout the 12-hour American Cancer Society fund and awareness raiser that was on hold for more than a year.
Early on in 2013, local committee leaders decided to postpone the annual relay in recognition of the many 12/14-related events and recovery initiatives happening across the community. For many, it appeared to be worth the wait.
Hundreds of team members, survivors and caregivers took to the track at Newtown High School’s Blue & Gold stadium throughout the night on Saturday, May 31, many expressing how glad they were to be back at the high school after a few years staging at Fairfield Hills while construction carried on at the NHS facility.
From the first pre-event performance by Emily Digerolomo to the lively trimming of Beautiful Lengths — highlighted by Kat Holick, the “Dancing Crossing Guard” — through the moving performance of recording artist Gregori Lukas, an impromptu Zumba class with NYA Sports & Fitness staffers Melissa Boyles and Amy Krasowski, and the zany Miss Relay competition, there was a little something for everyone.
Even late-night activities like the limbo and pajama laps, a chilly frozen T-shirt contest, a scavenger hunt, and water race were all well attended despite rapidly dropping temperatures at the stadium.
The event not only paid tribute to many, many survivors, Newtowners who have lost the fight, and local caregivers who supported them, the 2014 Relay featured a somber memorial lap honoring the Sandy Hook School community during which most participants donned the school’s colors.
One of the individuals who bridged the gap between those two groups was Honorary Relay Chair Mary Ann Jacob, both a cancer and 12/14 survivor. During her remarks at opening ceremonies, she made it a point to remind attendees that she was there mainly because of the research and medical advances spurred by donations and funds raised through relays including Newtown’s.
Saturday’s relay marked Ms Jacob’s fifth year cancer-free.
The relay was bittersweet for many, and not without fleeting but touching moments. They included a speech by 2014 Honorary Caregiver Jim Zarifis.
He talked about the long road to recovery he and his family made with his son, James, who was 11 years old at the time he was diagnosed with a brain tumor caused by medulloblastoma.
Embodying a party theme, virtually all relay teams cooperated using appropriate decor at their various tent sites. And as of Monday, June 2, organizers said approximately 500 team members and sponsors generated more than $128,000 for the cause.
See additional expanded coverage and photos here, and in Friday’s print edition of The Newtown Bee.