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TEAMS WILL STAGE AN OVERNIGHT RELAY TO SYMBOLIZE TIRELESS FIGHT AGAINST CANCER

Survivors, families of victims and those fueling the race for a cure will take to the Lewiston-Porter stadium track May 29 for an overnight Relay For Life, a major fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society.

Teams of eight to 10 people will walk, run or skate around the oval -- one or more at a time -- bringing in pledge money and raising community awareness, Cancer Society community director Carl Filbert said.

"It's going to be spectacular," he said of the event, which promises fun, festivities, music and refreshments throughout the day and night. Filbert said many of the participating teams will camp out overnight in tents around the track.

To explain and promote the event, the Cancer Society has organized a community breakfast for 7:45 a.m. Monday at the Best Western Red Jacket Inn, 7001 Buffalo Ave., Niagara Falls.

The public is invited but reservations are necessary, Filbert said. They can be made by calling the Cancer Society at 1-800-743-6724, extension 300.

A short video and a very brief program outlining the Relay For Life will be presented during the breakfast. Event brochures also will be handed out at that time.

Filbert said the Relay For Life is traditionally an emotional event.

"It offers people who have lost loved ones a chance to strike back and show their support," he said.

The theme for this year's event is "the community takes up the fight," Filbert said, and that's certainly the case with Cancer Society volunteer Bill Huntoon, who will be out on the track giving it his all.

"I guess I'm just an inherent do-gooder," said Huntoon, park manager at the Niagara Reservation State Park. "I am a volunteer and you have to do more than just sit on the sidelines. I get involved."

Families, employee groups, church groups, trade associations, schools, college fraternities and many other community organizations -- including interested individuals and families of cancer victims -- traditionally send teams to the event, Filbert said. This year's goal is 40 teams.

Each team must have a sponsor who contributes $150, and each team member collects $100 in pledges. Filbert said that tips will be offered during the community breakfast regarding procurement of a sponsor and collection of pledges.

Filbert said the event is "big with families," and historically well-accepted in places such as Lewiston and Youngstown.

"At the bottom of it all is the belief that we can beat cancer if we can throw enough money at it," Filbert said. "We're closing in on a cure, and these volunteers do believe their efforts will contribute to that cure.

"Some day we might think of cancer in terms of tonsillitis, instead of as a death sentence."

Cooperation on the part of the Lewiston-Porter Central School District has been outstanding, organizers said.

"They've made it quite a priority," Huntoon said. "The faculty and staff has really responded, and that's what the community needs to see.

"Things like this really catch on when the community rallies and comes out."

Anyone interested in entering a team for the Relay should call the Cancer Society at 1-800-743-6724, extension 300.