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"Why I Relay"

CA RFL FY11 Survivor getting a hand

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

Everyone has an individual reason to participate in Relay.  When we proudly share our Reasons to Relay with each other, our Relay community grows stronger. 

Here are some personal "Why I Relay" stories.
Share your story here.

"Today Call Me Feathered"
By: Julie Gardner

Today call me feathered. I have been since last Saturday when, at the Relay For Life in Camarillo, California, I purchased a feathery purple boa with a stanza from an Emily Dickinson poem attached at one end:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops at all.

I’m a huge fan of Emily Dickinson and couldn’t pass up the symbolism. But what I loved most about the boa were the statistics and information about colo-rectal cancer on the backside of the poem.

Because while hope is vital to fighting cancer, awareness is equally important.

This was the message emphasized last weekend while my kids, along with the black belt team from the Tang Soo Do University, took part in the 24-hour Relay to support the American Cancer Society.

At the Opening Ceremonies, none of us knew what to expect. But these people planned to Do. Some. Good!

Anyone who laments the sorry state of “teenagers these days” hasn’t met our group. They are fabulous beyond words and I love every single one of them. Even those I didn’t birth. Which is the majority. (Fortunately.)


The day started out overcast, but our spirits remained bright. We were there to make a difference. (Not just to purchase fine feathered accessories.)

The Relay For Life honors those affected by cancer; but it also seeks to spread awareness and information. The track was lined with signs displaying statistics about different types of cancers as well as support systems and prevention opportunities.

I read this and went straight to the Cancer Prevention Study tent to enroll in CPS 3. One survey. Seven teaspoons of blood. Zero stress. Okay, they measured our waists and said the number out loud. But in centimeters so no one flinched. Much.

Still. To promote the cause of cancer prevention, I’m sure everyone would’ve announced their numbers over the PA system.

In inches, even.

Meanwhile, our team and their families walked and walked and walked.  This group had just completed seven miles around the track. Their goal was to finish a marathon and they kept count by stringing a new bead with each lap.

Here’s Jack’s string, now hanging artfully from a wall sconce:

Karly dropped her necklace after her 105th lap at 3:00 in the morning. The beads scatteredeverywhere but my girl didn’t care.

She knew the necklace wasn’t the point.

This. This was the point.


Halfway through the 24-hours, everyone in the stadium gathered to watch the luminaries glow. We held our breath collectively as the word HOPE lit the darkness. Stories were told, songs sung, tears shed.

And then.

The Relay continued throughout the night and into the morning as soft pajamas replaced denim shorts.


After 26.2 miles, the boys rested. I think this is what pride looks like. Or maybe exhaustion. Possibly both.


The parents of these kids (some of whom are on the team or black belts themselves) walked as well. But most adults avoid pictures when they haven’t brushed their teeth or combed their hair. (Not me, of course. I love it.)


You may think I shouldn’t joke when the subject-matter is cancer. But sometimes we need to laugh to keep from crying; to look for happiness behind great loss. Love dwells in the middle:Without it there would be no pain; but also no more joy.

After six years of training together, the people with whom we Gardners walked this weekend have become family. Together we’ve faced failure and success; love and marriage; birth and, sadly, death.

I wore purple feathers in the hope that their work and my words could inspire others to take a step (or 26.2 miles of them) to Do. Some. Good.

That we can lessen our grief by sharing as much gladness as possible.

For this exhausted little person:


And this bigger one:


For everyone.

Oh yes.

Because hope is the thing with feathers.

Enough for us to fly.


"My Relay Experience"
By: Kim Carney

This was part of Relay For Life of Campbell's Opening Ceremony. It was written by Jodi Hale, one of our Committee members. I thought it was everything Relay For Life was about....

"We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems." Margaret Mead.
People with cancer have often turned their cancer into great opportunities. Many people use their cancer to reach out to others in need and still others find a way to finally let others reach out to them. Very often, cancer changes people for the better even when things couldn't look much worse.

As you all know, "Cancer" and "great opportunities" are typically not used in the same sentence. Which is exactly why I wanted to highlight this observation by Margaret Mead, because that actually is the perfect way to describe what you see here in front of you today. Our Campbell Relay is made up of 1,000 people and their families and their friends who support them. Every single one of those people have turned their experiences with Cancer into something great. While each of you are here for your own personal reason, we all share a common goal. We want a cure!

To the survivors, we stand behind you in your fight and we look up to you for your amazing courage. Know that you have a whole army behind you who is rooting for you to beat this and wants to help you crush it! To the caregivers, we admire your dedication and are amazed by your selflessness to help people in a way you probably never thought you would. You have been handed the absolute toughest job in the world and even though you might not hear it often enough, you are so very valued and appreciated.

To the future Cancer fighters, we hope you are inspired by the efforts put forth today to continue what has been started by all Relay participants. Every one of us sincerely hopes your generation is the last one touched by Cancer and wants to help you continue our mission.

To all of you who have lost a loved one to Cancer, we hope you find some peace today in knowing that many of us have had similar experiences and want to help you honor their memories. Know that we are all the legacy of those who have fought so bravely yet were still taken so unfairly. They would all want us to help spare others from what they went through and that is what we're doing today.

To those of you who are here simply because you have the compassion, the empathy and the concern to offer your time and energy to this event, we welcome you with open arms to our crazy Relay family and thank you so much for your support! You are truly a rare breed.

So whether you are here to celebrate a survivor's triumphs, or to remember a loved one's battle, or to fight back against this disease you hate, we are honored to have you here and hope today gives you the inspiration to continue this fight. -- Jodi Hale, Relay For Life of Campbell Sponsorship Chair


"My Relay Experience"
Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back. 
By: Leanne Marie Francisco

Last weekend was Pleasant Hill's Second Annual Relay For Life event that was held at Pleasant Hill Middle School. Relay for Life is a 24-hour event, where teams of people of all ages raise money for the American Cancer Society, as well as raise cancer awareness. At the beginning of the event, we Celebrated cancer survivors with a "Survivor Lap." A survivor is anyone who has ever heard the words "You have cancer." Survivors are the guests of honor at the Relay and it was very heartwarming to see some of Diablo Valley Oncology's patients there supporting our team.

After sunset, the Luminaria Ceremony began, where we Remembered those who have lost their battle with cancer or those who are still fighting this disease. This was my favorite part of the Relay and it is always simply magical. The Brownie Troop from Glorietta Elementary in Orinda played a very special part in this year's ceremony. Dr. Tiffany Svahn, breast cancer specialist of Diablo Valley Oncology, introduced the girls and they serenaded us with a few songs to open up the ceremony. It was a very sweet and cute touch that lightened our hearts. The track was lined with luminaria bags that were decorated in memory of, in honor of, or in support of their loved one; some of which were decorated by the Brownie Troop, they even used some of their money raised from Girl Scout cookie sales to buy art supplies to do so... very thoughtful! The luminaria bags were lit up by glow sticks (also with the help of the Brownie Troop) and they illuminated the field as we walked a silent lap in remembrance.

On Sunday morning, after hours and miles of walking, there was a Fight Back Ceremony, where we found out how much we have raised to date and how we can all fight back as a community against cancer.

This was my 5th Relay since 2009 and 2nd Relay as team captain...each event is always an indescribable experience.
There is something unique about being in a place where you are surrounded by people who are all there for the same reasons -- we were all there because we have been touched by cancer and we want to see an end to cancer in our lifetime. You can feel the strength and hope in the air. I was blown away by all the participants that never stopped and walked for miles and miles... a few kids beat their own goal of walking a marathon (26 miles), one of the boys walked 116 laps! AMAZING! They were an inspiration.

At first, attending the Relay was just something to do for work, but now, it has become personal. It has become more personal, not because I have a family member that had cancer; it is personal because our patients look at us like friends and family. Every day, I meet such wonderful, strong people, who are unfortunately fighting this dreadful disease, so I Relay for them. I Relay in honor and in support of all cancer patients and their families and friends... and I Relay in memory of all those who lost their battle but will never be forgotten.

After a long and eventful weekend, I was exhausted and sore... but at the same time I felt refreshed and happy. I'm excited to say we've raised over $3,000 so far... and we still have three months left to keep fundraising. This all couldn't have been done without the help of everyone who participated and who came out to support our team, thank you!

I was very fortunate to have worked with people like Kellli Nahas, and Ken & Eileen Housfeld, who dedicate their lives to the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life. I'm looking forward to working with them for next year's Relay!


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