Relay for Life raises $140,500 for American Cancer Society

12 years ago

By Barbara Scott
Staff Writer

When Lisa Leduc, an 8-year cancer survivor and one of the chairpersons for the Relay for Life event, addressed the Caribou City Council on May 29, she stated, “as of now we have 65 relay teams registered and 130 survivors have registered to participate in our Survivors’ Lap. We have raised $65,000 online so far and our goal this year to reach $130,000.”

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Aroostook Republican photo/Barb Scott
Cancer survivors Matt Doyen, Jenna Shaw, Hadley McLean and Robb Miller led the June 2 Relay for Life Survivors’ Lap at Caribou High School in which 171 survivors participated.

According to Leduc the weekend event exceeded the goal by at least $10,500 with $140,500 raised for the American Cancer Society.

With the weather cooperating to a greater degree than last year, the sun was shining brightly, bringing more warmth to the infield and track at the Caribou High School where more than 800 individuals signed on to help Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back against cancer.

As an observer one couldn’t help but feel the energy generated by the smiles and hugs, the quiet conversations as well as the tears of happiness and those shed in sad remembrance by those who share the story of fighting the disease of cancer and those who have or are bearing the role of caregiver.

As chairpersons and volunteers briefly shared their stories, thanking their families and friends for their support, an emotional wave of applause and encouragement rose from the crowd, some individuals nodding their heads in quiet understanding, others wiping the tears that fell without shame.

“Whereas cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells which, if not controlled, can result in death; and whereas 8,650 new cases of cancer were estimated to occur in Maine in 2010 and approximately 3,170 Mainers were expected to die from cancer in 2010 and whereas the Relay for Life is the signature activity of The American Cancer Society and celebrates cancer survivors and caregivers, remembers loved ones lost to the disease and empowers individuals and communities to fight back against cancer, we the Caribou City Council, do proclaim the city of Caribou a Relay for Life community and also proclaim June 1-2 2012 as Relay for Life Weekend.”(Excerpt from the Relay of Life Proclamation signed into effect by the Caribou City Council on May 29).

In preparation for the Survivors’ Lap, walkers who have won their battle against cancer or those still fighting, each announced their name, stating the length of time they have been cancer-free. As one listened to the voices carried over the public address system, it was clear that those survivors ranged in years from very young children to much older adults and many that could be considered in the very prime of their life. From the statement, “42 years to that of another saying, diagnosed in April 2012 — still fighting,” it is the voices not necessarily the words that ring with an inner strength that many never achieve.

According to Leduc, 171 survivors participated in the Survivors’ Lap, the most yet. Kevin Simmons, owner of the Caribou and Presque Isle Inn and Convention centers, has been involved in Relay for Life since his own diagnoses in 2005. Since his bone marrow transplant he and his businesses have supported and sponsored the Survivors’ Lap at the Aroostook County Relay for Life.

“As you know it is truly my pleasure sponsoring the Survivors’ Lap. Being a survivor myself, I look forward to this annual celebration for myself and for being able to sponsor this small but important part of Relay and giving back to the many survivors in Aroostook County,” stated Simmons. Unfortunately, due to some minor medical complications and a very broken foot, I will be unable to physically be in attendance, but will definitely be there in spirit,” Simmons stated prior to the event.

Simmons also said, “I have asked Robb Miller (cancer survivor and my company operations manager) as well as Matt Doyen of Mapleton, who celebrates his one-year anniversary of his bone marrow transplant on June 2; Jenna Shaw of Mars Hill, five months out of her bone marrow transplant and Hadley McLean of Presque Isle to be survivor banner holders and lead the Aroostook County Survivors’ Lap. God bless all who walk in this procession. We beat it and we will continue walking tall in doing so.”

As relay team members, survivors and caregivers walked their laps, they were aware of those who lost their battles, many represented by the luminaria bags that were lighted during the evening with candles during the Ceremony Lap. The small white bags bore the names and in many cases photos of those lost to cancer.

As the music played and teams upheld their pledge to have one member walking continuously throughout the night they paid little heed to the chilly temperatures or to the darkness which enveloped them — most fully aware of the fact that this paled greatly compared to the dark nights of one fighting against cancer.