File photo/QNS
Cancer survivors walked the first lap of the Relay for Life of Middle Village to raise money to fight the disease in 2013.

After a record-setting event in 2017, the Middle Village Relay For Life is coming to Juniper Valley Park for the 16th straight year to raise tens of thousands of dollars for cancer research.

The overnight relay will take place from 4 p.m. on June 23 until 7 a.m. on June 24, and the night will be filled with activities, ceremonies and live entertainment while the participants honor those who lost their lives to cancer, are fighting cancer or have treated people with cancer. The goal of each team participating is to raise as much money as possible before the event, and to have at least one team member walking around the track at all times throughout the event.

According to Carol Palacio of the American Cancer Society, the all-night walk that is the signature of Relay For Life events is a perfect metaphor to represent the fight that people have with cancer.

“We go all night long because cancer doesn’t stop or sleep, and neither will we as a community,” Palacio said. “As it turns to nightfall, it really represents the cancer patients’ journey. At first you feel like you have all these people there for you when you first get the diagnosis. As you go through treatment, it gets harder and harder. So someone from each team walks all night long to represent that, and even though we’re tired and it’s 3 a.m., we’re still walking for our loved ones.”

The event kicks off with an opening ceremony at 4 p.m. followed shortly by the first lap of the event, the “survivors’ lap.” Palacio said that about 200 survivors participate in the event every year.

Next there is a “caregiver lap” to recognize those who treat cancer patients, and then every team participating gets to take a lap with a song chosen by the team. From there, the relay is on and the fun and games begin.

Palacio explained that there will be many field-day style games as well as live music and other performances. This year’s theme is Disney, so teams will decorate their campsites and create team uniforms based on that.

The shining moment of the night is the luminaria ceremony at 10 p.m. People participating in the event can buy the luminaria (white paper bags with a candle inside), write the name of a loved one who died of cancer or is fighting cancer, and they are all lit up at the same time as the names are read aloud. Palacio said that there are usually close to 2,000 luminaria bags lined up around the track every year.

Participants then rally through the rest of the night until the closing ceremony at 7 a.m.

With less than two months until the 2018 Relay For Life, there are currently 52 teams signed up and a total of $31,191.93 has been raised so far. Last year, the Middle Village relay broke its all-time fundraising record when the 80 teams that participated raised $245,000.

For the team that raises the most money by June 21, the reward is its own porta-potty for its campsite during the event, as well as a plaque of recognition to be received at the kickoff event for the following year’s relay. There are also fundraising challenges during the lead up to the event. Whichever team has raised the most money by May 15, for example, will have its name put on the back of the event T-shirt.

Those who would like more information about signing up for the event can visit the Middle Village Relay For Life website, or attend one of the upcoming meetings at the Ridgewood Moose Lodge on May3, May 15 or May 31.



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