Relay for Life stirs one’s emotions



While Bruce usually takes this opportunity to tell you all about his weekend in our beautiful municipality – because there is always something interesting happening – I hijacked his column to tell you about my weekend at the Chatham-Kent Relay for Life.

Held on Saturday at CKSS, the new format of a six-hour event from 6 p.m. to midnight had many people wondering if our collective community would support it. Declining numbers of people and teams registered in recent years have led to those fears.

Once again, however, my faith in the generosity and big hearts of the people here was well founded, with more than $82,000 and counting raised and about 370 people registered.

Relay is an event close to my heart, not only for the closeness and camaraderie of the people who attend and volunteer, but for the memory of people in my family lost to cancer. Both my parents, George and Jessie Marlatt, lost their lives to cancer, along with aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbours. Cancer also claimed Bruce’s father, Fred Corcoran, way back in the early 1980s.

Everyone who gets involved in Relay does it for a reason – usually because they have experienced first-hand the devastation of a cancer diagnosis. What comes after the diagnosis is hard on the patient, and all the people in their world, but that time also showcases some of the strongest and most courageous people I have ever met.

At Relay, we celebrate the survivors – the people who have battled and won, but also those people in the midst of their battles – as they take a victory lap around the track at CKSS to celebrate their victory and give hope to those who need to know the battle can be won.

Lou Gordon talked about her journey, giving hope to people that there is life after a cancer diagnosis.

Then, at dusk, we remember all those we have lost and honour those still fighting with a luminary ceremony and the lighting of candles that line the track. It is my favourite moment of Relay, an emotional and poignant chance to remember exactly why we are there and what we are fighting for. Lighting the candles in the huge sign that spells HOPE beside the track always makes me tear up, as it does for many other people. As we walk by it each time we do a lap, it reminds us there is hope for a cure one day.

All the time and effort so many volunteers and committee members put into this event is incredible, and it’s all a labour of love. For the luminary ceremony this year, four young dancers including my daughter Brenna, choreographed a dance to Faith Hill’s There You’ll Be, and then walked with event chair Jim Blake in a lap of the track holding a lantern in memory of his wife, Heather. I’m not ashamed to admit I had tears in my eyes.

James MacNeil talked about the significance of light in the darkness while people lit their candles; people took the time to hug and shed tears in silence, and then the walking started again.

For everyone who hasn’t participated in a Relay, I encourage you to come out next year. It is meaningful with the added bonus of raising funds for community programs like drivers to take patients to their appointments and research to find cures. The number of people diagnosed with cancer continues to rise, but so does the survival rate thanks to events like Relay for Life that fund research and services.

Take part – you won’t regret it.


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