By SHERIDAN CYR
Southington’s 20th annual Relay for Life celebration rose over $85,000 last weekend for the American Cancer Society. Forty teams joined together on June 1-2 at the Southington High School, all with different stories and inspirations, with the common goal of supporting ACS, the nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer.
“Everyone here is here to fight against cancer,” said publicity person Ashley Aleksinas and participant of Relay for Life for 18 years. “You stay up all night for just one night to fight cancer, but the people who are going through this battle have to fight cancer every day, all day long. Participants are putting themselves out of their comfort zone to support the fight.”
Relay for Life teams came out strong on Friday night, decorating the turf with illuminated paper bags and torches to remember their loved ones. Teams set up tents around the field selling items off to raise funds for ACS while one team member represented the group circling the track.
Back for a third year, mom-and-daughter duo Jean and Isabelle Crowley remembered Isabelle’s best friend’s father on team “Tom’s Avengers.” Isabelle offered Henna designs to participants as they passed by on the track.
“It hit hard when Tom died because he was so young,” said Jean. “We felt we needed to do something about it, and we do that by spreading awareness, raising money for cancer research, encouraging people to know the symptoms and get tested regularly.”
Isabelle takes the lead by using social media to support Tom’s Avengers, as well as going to different local businesses and requesting their support.
“It’s great to be here and to see everyone participating, and to see how much we’re all raising,” said Isabelle. Tom’s Avengers’ fundraising goal was $1,000. By Saturday morning, they already had $900.
On Saturday morning, Relay for Life volunteers held a Fight Back Ceremony, led by Kim Procaccini, inviting cancer survivors to speak and share their battle tales.
“This is something that amazes me year after year to see how powerful this event is,” Procaccini said. “Today we will hear amazing stories of strength, courage and hope, and this entire relay runs on hope.”
Several speakers shared their experiences battling cancer, and coming out a survivor. Dozens of participants sat intently and listened to the inspiring messages they offered.
During the ceremony, a handful of different colored biodegradable balloons, each color signifying one type of cancer, was released into the air. Butterflies were also released.
“We were so excited to see familiar faces and all of our new teams,” said event lead, Joyce McAloon. “Together, we can overcome cancer, and support our survivors. I truly believe in this message, being a survivor [myself].”
McAloon said final fundraising totals will not be official until Aug. 31, the closing date for the year.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@Southing-tonObserver.com.