Organizers Preparing To 'Light The Night' At June 16 Relay For Life

Published: June 09, 2018 at 12:00 am


All the Newtown children and spouses of dads who have lost the battle with cancer, and those dads who have selflessly taken on the role of caregiver when a spouse or child has been diagnosed, will be honored in an extra special way this Father's Day by the many residents who will take to the Blue & Gold Stadium track during the community's 2018 Relay for Life.

The annual fund- and awareness-raising activity is set to begin at 5 pm on Saturday, June 16, at Newtown High School - and will conclude 12 hours later, as the sun begins making its way toward the horizon on Father's Day morning.

Relay Co-Chair Tracy Holsworth Broomer is hoping to make the ceremonies even more impactful by welcoming a dad, husband, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or a special someone to share their survivor or caregiver story at the Relay's Opening Ceremony.

As she continues searching for an inspiring survivor or caregiver, Co-Chair Christopher Farrington is busy recruiting community members to volunteer to help with event duties tied to site setup, entertainment, luminaria sales, registration, survivorship, parking, security, and post event cleanup.

At the same time, Co-Chair Gayle DiBenedetto continues to help by supporting planning, logistics, and survivorship activities.

As of June 1, the 2018 Relay will bring together 28 separate teams who have reached or surpassed the qualifying fundraising threshold. This year's relay theme is "Light the Night," so teams are encouraged to decorate their team sites with creative lighting elements to reflect that illuminating theme.

There will be a number of traditional relay activities, including the moving luminaria ceremony and lap in remembrance of all those who have lost the battle, as well as themed laps - many with specialized music programming like the "limbo lap" - and plans are being set for an early morning "wake up" yoga session; and once again, Monsignor Robert Weiss from St Rose of Lima has offered to hold a Mass for those attendees who celebrate.

Preceding the main event is the free Relay For Life of Newtown's Survivor/Caregiver luncheon. That special luncheon will take place at Newtown High School at 3 pm on Saturday, June 16.

From the moment of diagnosis, an individual is considered to be a cancer survivor, so anyone from those recently diagnosed to those whose cancer experience is years or decades past is invited. After the luncheon, opening ceremonies will begin, and survivors and caregivers will lead the first lap to officially kick off the 2018 Relay.

Any Newtown cancer survivor or caregiver is welcome and encouraged to attend, and can register by e-mailing Megan.McGrady@cancer.org or calling 914-397-8803.

Staying Involved

Mr Farrington told The Newtown Bee that he first became involved with Relay in 2004.

"The company I work for was a significant sponsor of the event at the time," Mr Farrington said. "Knowing that I was a cancer survivor, they invited me to join their team and get involved with the planning of the event."

Ms Broomer said she started with Relay in 2010 when she lived in Pennsylvania.

"I was invited to a team meeting, and right away, I knew this was something I had to be involved in," she said. "The passion, dedication, and love that was in that room - I'll never forget it. Now, eight years later, I am part of the Newtown committee, and I wouldn't change it for the world."

Ms DiBenedetto said she has been a longtime supporter of the local relay out of a desire to help raise awareness, money, and to help others. "I've lost too many people in my family to cancer. I come back to honor them and fight for the survivors," she said.

Mr Farrington said there are many things that keep him coming back year after year.

"Newtown has such a wonderful and supportive close-knit community of survivors and caregivers," he said. "Seeing their courage to embrace their own cancer story in their everyday lives is such an inspiration to me. The event is more than just a walk; it's 12 hours of pure excitement and intense emotions. From games or fun activities on the track to the opening and luminary ceremonies, the event is one I cherish every year."

Ms Broomer said she keeps coming back because participation makes her feel she is a part of something "bigger than ourselves."

"Giving back and having the courage to do something for others is what life is all about," she said. "Relay has both a sad side and fun side, but people always come back year after year. I have made some of the best friendships because of Relay. It's a great time, and I look forward to it every year."

'Synonymous With Community'

Mr Farrington said it is important for the community to know that the Relay is not just another local event for a specific group of residents.

"It's a time for families and friends to gather, have a good time, play games, socialize, and really celebrate being with each other and those who are important in their everyday lives. The event offers so much that the entire family can be involved in," he said.

Ms Broomer echoed that sentiment, saying, "Relay for Life is synonymous with community."

"It is an opportunity for everyone in the community to make a difference - one step at a time," she added. "By coming to Relay for Life, you are helping to raise money to find a cure for cancer. Everyone is here for one reason, and that is to show their support for our cancer survivors and loved ones. Not only will you be making a difference, but you will have fun doing it."

Ms DiBenedetto said, "There's a message we need to send our survivors to keep faith and keep on fighting, a message we need to send to caregivers about the available resources for survivors and themselves, and a message to send that as a community, we are stronger when we work together and continue to raise money for a cure.

"Our event is so moving and incredible to be a part of," she added. "I look forward to seeing our community come together, united in this fight against this disease. The luminary candlelit lap is so moving and speaks volume of our pain and our resilience."

As an 18-year cancer survivor of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Mr Farrington says his favorite part of the event has to be the luminary ceremony as well.

"It's a time, in this hectic and chaotic world, that time seems to stand still," he said "It's a time to remember and reflect on those who have cancer and those who we've lost to cancer. It's a time to just take a moment to reflect on how those people have impacted our own lives and how grateful we are for those people each and every day."

For Ms Broomer, there is no one thing she looks forward to each year.

"It's everything. The survivors - listening to their stories and their journeys. Seeing the community come together to raise money for a common cause. Local businesses who have gone out of their way to ensure our event is a huge success year after year. And the kids coming out to have fun, walk the track, and know that they are making a difference," she said.

"I personally love to walk the track late at night when its quiet; it gives me time to reflect and appreciate that tomorrow is another day to make a difference," Ms Broomer added. "One thing I've learned is that you may not know the person you are walking next to on the track, but you share the same connection in some abstract way, and that's a beautiful thing to share together."

Learn more information by visiting the Newtown Relay for Life Facebook page, or going to relayforlife.org/newtownct.

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