Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Relay for Life laces up for a sleepless night by Michelle Libby

Walking around the Windham High School track for 12 hours doesn’t sound like a good idea, until it’s walking around the track to raise money for the Relay for Life Sebago Lakes. The Relay for Life organization, which raises money for the American Cancer Society, plans walks nationwide and to date has raised over $4 billion toward finding a cure for cancer. This year’s Relay for Life in Windham takes place starting Saturday, June 29 and ends on Sunday, June 30, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. This year the walkers are celebrating the 100th year of the American Cancer Society.

“As a cancer survivor, the Relay for Life is an event that I look forward to every year. It feels great to be a part of such a great community event, and to know with the money raised we are making a difference,” said Windham resident and co-chair Janet Copp.

The relay began in 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt from Tacoma, Washington decided to walk to raise money. That night he raised $27,000. The thought behind the all-night walk is that cancer never sleeps.

Five years ago the relay came to Windham. It had been held in Falmouth before that, but they built a turf field and couldn’t hold it any longer.

“(Windham’s) a great site,” said Copp.

“Two out of three people are survivors and we need to make it three out of three,” said Copp. “The survivors…that’s why we walk.” Each year there is a survivor/caregiver reception at 4:30 p.m. An invitation goes out to all of the survivors in the area. This year’s reception is sponsored by Hope Lodge, which provides free lodging for people going through treatment and patient support.

“The survivor reception when all the survivors and caregivers get together is an awesome experience. When you participate in the survivor/caregiver lap and all the other participants line the track to cheer you on, the feeling is unbelievable and you know that you are not in this alone,” said Copp.

Most years the Sebago Lakes relay has between 500 and 600 participants. Not all walk, but they are at the track to sell items, cheer on their team or to help organize. The other co-chair is Becky Driscoll.
Throughout the night laps are themed, from a beach party to silly hats, each lap gives the participants something fun to do. Music blares all night and at 3 a.m. there is a Zumba class.

Another part of the night is the lighting of the luminaria, paper bags bought in memory of a loved one who has passed or who is fighting with cancer. Each bag is decorated in honor of one person. When they are lit, members from each team read a list of people the luminarias were made for.

“It’s so cool. All the lights are off and just the bags are lit. For me it’s the coolest part of the night,” said Copp.

“We are creating survivors and fighting against cancer,” said Copp. There is an open invitation to the community to come and check the event out. “Once you do, you’ll be back, she said.

The goal for the event is to raise $75,000.

To donate or walk with a team, visit www. Relayforlife.org/sebagolakesme or email rflsebago@gamil.com.

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