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Weekend Kickoff Event Sparks Excitement For Newtown's 15th Relay For Life

Published: March 04, 2018 at 12:00 am

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Relay for Life Co-Event Chair and Logistics Chair Christopher Farrington, and Co-Event Chair and Survivor & Caregiver Chair Tracy Broomer share a moment together during the February 25 kickoff party at the Newtown High School cafetorium.  (Bee Photo…
Relay for Life Co-Event Chair and Logistics Chair Christopher Farrington, and Co-Event Chair and Survivor & Caregiver Chair Tracy Broomer share a moment together during the February 25 kickoff party at the Newtown High School cafetorium. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Grace Scinto, senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society, left, looks on as Newtown High School sophomore Gwen Drew shares her own personal cancer story during the February 25 Relay For Life kickoff. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Grace Scinto, senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society, left, looks on as Newtown High School sophomore Gwen Drew shares her own personal cancer story during the February 25 Relay For Life kickoff. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
A kickoff party on February 25 for the this year's Relay For Life of Newtown helped spark excitement for the June 16 event while providing organizers a venue to announce some big goals for 2018.

Newtown has hosted a Relay For Life - a fund- and awareness-raising nonsporting community building event to benefit the American Cancer Society and its research, outreach, and education programs - for 15 years. This year the event is returning to the Blue & Gold Stadium at Newtown High School, where it was first held.

Last year's Relay For Life had 30 teams, 275 registered participants, 20 survivors walking with 300 community members, and it raised more than $54,000 for the American Cancer Society, according to the presentation. This year, the organizing team would like to have 40 teams, 325 registered participants, 40 survivors, 400 community members participate, and it would like to raise $60,000.

Organizers asked everyone attending the kickoff party to share information about this year's Relay For Life to help the event meet its goals.

Members of the organizing committee spoke near the start of the party, held in the NHS cafetorium, to share information about this year's Relay for Life.

"We are so excited that you are here joining us, learning about such a great program in town," said organizing committee member Co-Event Chair and Survivor & Caregiver Chair Tracy Broomer, starting a roughly half-hour presentation that welcomed all in attendance.

Grace Scinto, senior community development manager with the American Cancer Society and organizing committee member, said the kickoff event was held to also inform people about the American Cancer Society. Ms Scinto said she has been participating with Relay For Life events since she was 16 years old, and she still has a hard time describing it to others.

"It's a movement where, basically, you get to come together with your community and honor those who are battling with their fight against cancer," said Ms Scinto, adding that each town that holds a Relay For Life fundraiser has its own ways of celebrating. "We are the world's largest fundraising event to save lives from cancer. We unite communities across the country to remember loved ones, honor those that are still fighting, and take action."

This year's Relay For Life will run from 5 pm June 16 to 5 am June 17.

"We are really excited. We have so many things planned," said Ms Broomer. "And our theme this year is 'Light the Night,' so if anyone has any ideas on how to make our event even more special and exciting, be sure to let us know."

Organizers said Newtown's Relay For Life will include a survivor's reception, an opening ceremony with speakers sharing stories of how cancer impacted their lives, a survivor lap to celebrate their lives and to encourage them to keep on fighting. During the nightlong event music will be playing, activities will be held, games will be played, and people will be encouraged to walk around the track the entire night. A ceremony will be conducted to close the 2018 Relay For Life.

"Now that we are back at the high school, we want to pack the track," said Ms Broomer. "We want people walking and celebrating. Relay is a celebration of life. There are parts that are sad because we all know why we are here, but it is also a celebration. It is a time to have fun and raise money."

Meeting Gwen

NHS sophomore Gwen Drew shared her story as a survivor at the kickoff party. Last summer, Gwen said she learned she had a cancerous cyst on her left ovary.

"Cancer to me means fighting," said Gwen, adding that she woke up with severe pain on the day before finals last school year.

After hours of waiting and an ultrasound, she learned she had a cyst. After further tests she learned the cyst was cancerous.

"This was hard for me," Gwen said, "because I didn't know exactly what would happen. But I would fight through it, and me and my parents got through it together."

She went to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for treatments, and she eventually had another surgery to remove her left ovary.

"After surgery everything went well. I was back home within a day," said Gwen. Further tests proved there was no more cancer. "... I was going to be okay. Now I go back every four months for MRIs, and I am going to be fine. That was me fighting, but I know there are many others."

Last year, Gwen said her 5-year-old cousin was diagnosed with a tumor in her ear and leukemia.

"That is why I want to do Relay For Life for her and all the other fighters," said Gwen.

Other speakers at the event included Co-Event Chair and Entertainment Chair Gayle DiBenedetto and NHS junior and Relay For Life Youth Champion Emma Stierle. Co-Event Chair and Logistics Chair Christopher Farrington also attended the event, and he was one of multiple top fundraising team members from last year honored at the kickoff party.

According to the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life movement is the world's largest fundraising event to save lives from cancer. Uniting communities across the globe, it celebrates people who have battled cancer, remembers loved ones lost, and takes action for lifesaving change.

Funds raised help the American Cancer Society provide free information and support for people facing the disease today, educate people about how to reduce their risk for cancer or detect it early when it is the easiest to treat, and fund cancer research that will help protect future generations.

To learn more about the Relay For Life of Newtown, contact Grace Scinto, Grace.Scinto@cancer.org and 203-563-1520 or see its website RelayForLife.org/NewtownCT.

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Newtown Cultural Arts Commission is presenting or coordinating on six weeks of special events. Which event are you looking forward to the most? (Visit our Features page for a full story with details about all of these events.)

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