BY JEN CARDINES
Hundreds of locals paced the Southington High School track last weekend during the annual Southington Relay for Life event. In its 19th year, the all-night fundraiser earned $100,000 for the American Cancer Society through the 54 participating teams.
Groups of students were seen circling the track as well, as most schools in town participated.
“In 19 years, we’ve raised well over $1.5 million,” said event lead Joyce McAloon. “This year went well.”
McAloon said the 2017 theme was “Our town. Our spirit. Our hope,” and Southington was well-represented with a variety of family groups, civil groups, and town officials getting involved by donating and volunteering time and resources, said McAloon. Spirit is shown through the various groups that participate.
“The teams are our cheerleaders,” McAloon said. “They educate our town and bond with survivors.” The event lead said that their hope is for a cancer-free world and that “everyone stands together because hope is so important.”
During opening ceremonies on Friday night, the event honored those who lost the battle to cancer by releasing butterflies and placing luminaries along the track. The relay also honored cancer survivors who participated with a survivor dinner.
Once the ceremonies concluded, it was time to start walking.
The nation-wide fundraiser is a continuous relay where at least one member from each team has to be walking at all times. To keep everyone motivated and energized, event organizers planned for much entertainment, including a dual-trumpet rendition of “Taps” as darkness fell.
Saturday morning kicked off with a “fight back ceremony” run by Kim Procaccini. Elementary students sang songs during the positive send-off. The ceremony is designed to shed light on cancer awareness and how people can take charge and “fight back.”
“It shows how it’s not just important these two days, but every day of the year,” said Procaccini.
Live bands played upbeat music on Saturday while “The Amazing Magical Paul” captivated children’s attention with magic tricks and balloon animals. Each year, he donates his time and materials for the Relay.
“It’s about making people happy,” he said. Face painters were also on hand to add to the fun.
Event organizers said that unlike the last few years, the forecast was in their favor. Despite cooler than average temperatures and occasional wind, officials were pleased that everything stayed dry throughout the event.
“The weather really worked out for us,” said Lacee Levesque.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by KELLY MAY DEL DEBBIO