Usually we ship out our hats, or just leave them in a basket, so interacting with the people who took our hats was very refreshing. We really enjoyed helping them choose a hat, telling the stories of where it came from, how it was created, and just seeing their smiles. At the hottest part of the evening, it was 90 degrees outside, so there wasn't much trying on of hats, which means no pictures. But maybe next time!
If you aren't familiar with the Relay For Life, it is a fund-raising walk that lasts from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. It is said that cancer does not sleep, so that is why the participants sacrifice one night of sleep. Cancer survivors and caregivers are honored with the first laps around the track, and this was definitely emotional to witness. It brought a tear to my eye, but at the same time, joy to my heart to see so many survivors take their victory lap!
After those laps, the relay begins, each team has a baton that must be on the track at all times.At this point, with 11 or so more hours, you can't help but think it is going to be a long night, and you wonder how you will make it--much like someone facing a new diagnosis, not quite sure what to expect.
As dusk falls, there is a poignant luminaria ceremony, in which memorial lanterns are lit with candles and lined up around the track. During this time, most of the lights are out, and there is a very eerie, dark silence 200 people continue to take laps. I have had several loved ones who have battled cancer, and for me it was a quiet moment to reflect on the ones I have lost, and to truly appreciate those who are in the Survivor's Club.
After this, the DJ pumps the music back up, and the event kind of transforms into a block party. After all, it's getting late, most of us had been up all day, and we need all the help we can get. This is where Relay really gets interesting.
You start to notice people. For example, the guy whose shirt read: "I WILL RUN ALL NIGHT TO FIGHT CANCER!" And he did. He ran from 6 until midnight, stopping only for a quick water break or granola bar. You see the Superman team, who are all wearing Superman capes, T-shirts and pajama bottoms. There is the young girl in a wheelchair, who was clearly struggling to make her laps on the uneven track, but she refused to give up.
The crowd starts to dwindle by 1 am. There are constant events, such as Zumba, touch football, moonlight yoga to keep everyone entertained. But this is where it really starts getting entertaining. Those of us who are left at this point are getting loopy. People begin to walk backwards, dance, and crawl around the track, just to keep it interesting. There was even one young guy who started to walk like a gorilla!
By 3 a.m., all sanity is completely lost. You're tempted to go home, but then you think, "I've got 9 hours under my belt, might as well finish this." By this time, we had broken into the leftover glow sticks. And let me tell you, after 21 hours of no sleep, GLOW STICKS are mighty amusing entertainment. We crafted a glow stick mustache, glasses, headband and jewelry. Glow stick frisbee in a dark field at 3 a.m. is absolutely mesmerizing. But I have to say the highlight of the glow sticks was the glow-in-the-dark "YMCA" dance trackside, to help motivate the walkers. We aren't sure if it actually motivated them or scared them. Either way, it kept them moving!
By 5:30 a.m (23 sleepless hours and countless laps), you are exhausted, you are smelly, and you are completely delirious. But all of a sudden, you see the sun peeking up over the horizon.
Let me tell you, those were the most beautiful rays of light I have ever seen. You are overcome with a definite sense of accomplishment. You can't help but wonder how you did it, but you are just glad you made it!
This event raised over $100,000 for the American Cancer Society to continue research for a cure. I am very proud to have not only participated, but completed the entire event
Praise the good day at the end of it