By SHERIDAN CYR
Southington’s annual Relay for Life will be celebrating 20 years of raising funds for the American Cancer Society (ACS) and supporting cancer patients, survivors, friends and family members nationally. The 2018 Relay for Life will join hundreds of people at the Southington High School athletic fields for the 22-hour event starting at 4 p.m. on June 1 and ending at 2 p.m. on June 2.
“We want to celebrate the teams, survivors, caregivers, and anyone else who has been involved in our Relay,” said Joyce McAloon, event lead. “Whether you’ve been here for 20 years, or if this is your first year, this is our relay.”
Relay for Life invites community members to form teams to participate in the event. Once the relay begins, each team is expected to have one member walking along the track for the entire 22 hours, tagging another team member to take his or her place when they are tired. Teams camp out in tents overnight in the lacrosse field.
“Being that it’s our 20 year anniversary, we are calling all participants—speakers, walkers, teams and others—from past relays to come back out and celebrate with us,” said McAloon. “Last year, we had about 55 teams. We are still looking for teams to come out and participate this year. Community support is so important to us.”
Throughout the event, several ceremonial traditions will be held around the track. Team captains will be invited to share stories about their experiences in the relay and talk about who they are relaying for, and survivors will tell their tales during an opening ceremony on Friday night.
There will also be a torch ceremony, a luminaria ceremony, a survivor and caregiver walk and dinner. Torches and luminaries can be purchased and dedicated to specific individuals.
“We have wonderful people in this town, because our dinner is all free,” McAloon said. “Our restaurants stand up and do that for us. We want to thank our sponsors and the local restaurants and our town overall.”
On Saturday, there will be a stronger focus on getting youth involved. There will be a parade of schools, a Fight Back ceremony, a butterfly release, balloon-making, face-painting and more.
Saturday will also feature the ACS Can ceremony, which is a call on legislators to provide more financial support toward health. Just before the relay ends, there will be a final ceremonial ending walk and a reveal of the total funds raised for ACS.
Teams must raise money to participate in the event. In the past, teams have done that through bake sales, collaborating sales with local businesses, hosting individual fundraising events, and more. During the relay, teams can set up booths around the track and sell items to raise money for ACS.
Ashley Aleksinas, a member of the Relay for Life committee, has participated in the event for 18 years.
“I started at a young age and always had a lot of fun. I couldn’t wait to come back,” she said. “We really want to thank the town for all that they do to support this event. We hope to attract even more survivors and supporters this year.”
A public meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 16 in the Southington High School library at 7 p.m. for teams to sign up and get information. That will be the final chance for teams to sign up, however individuals can still register on-site at the event to be a participant. Teams can also register online at www.relayforlife.org/southingtonct.
The committee is also looking for volunteers to come out and help leading up to and during the event. Contact Joyce McAloon for details at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Southington’s Relay for Life, visit their website or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SouthingtonRFL.