Sale of chocolate treats in Caribou benefits cancer research
CARIBOU, Maine — Cars packed the Caribou Middle School parking lot on Saturday for the Relay For Life Chocolate Festival, an event that not only lets local residents try numerous chocolate-themed confections, but benefits efforts to fight cancer.
This year, organizers held the festival at Caribou Middle School, which allowed for easier parking and a less crowded event overall. Relay for Life teams set up tables stacked high with chocolate treats in the cafeteria as children played games in the downstairs gymnasium.
Relay for Life Co-Leaders Cuppy Johndro and Laurie Boucher were optimistic about this year’s annual relay which, for the first time, will be held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on June 16 as opposed to being an all night event.
“We’re looking for teams to sign up and we want more teams to come out with the 11 to 11 format,” Johndro said of the benefit for the American Cancer Society. “It was a bit of a hurdle for some to come out all night, and it’s hard on the [cancer] survivors, especially when it’s cold and wet like last year, but this year it will be dry and hot.”
While the weather is supposed to be nice, Johndro said she ordered umbrellas in the event of a downpour.
Some related activities being planned for the June 16 event, which will be held at the Caribou High School track, include a karate demonstration, bands, and local queens, or pageant winners, walking out with cancer survivors.
“It will be like having royalty march with the survivors,” Johndro said.
As far as each team’s progress is concerned, Johndro said everyone is “kicking butt and taking names.”
She said guests for Saturday’s event were coming “in waves,” and that “lots of chocolate is flying out the door.”
Anyone interested in signing up for the Relay for Life, according to Boucher and Johndro, can sign up any time until the event begins.
Boucher said the best way to contact her or Cuppy is by sending a message to the Aroostook Relay for Life Facebook page. People interested in joining up also can sign up their team, or as a survivor for the survivor lap, by going to the Aroostook Relay’s official webpage at relayforlife.org/aroostookme.
“Sign up anytime,” Boucher said. “We’ll take anyone, whether it’s one person or a team of 50. We want to make sure a cure is found and that we don’t lose anyone else. It seems that more and more people in Aroostook County are coming down with cancer. We know a cure will not be found in The County, but these funds will go to the American Cancer Society and help with research.”
In addition to assisting with research, Boucher said funds also benefit the Boston Hope Lodge, in which cancer patients can stay for free. She added that more people from Maine use the Hope Lodge than in any other New England State.
“A lot of people ask if the funds stay in Aroostook,” Boucher said, “and in some ways they do, but it’s mainly for research, because we have to stop this. If we don’t, more and more people will come down with cancer. Cuppy and I both lost our mothers to cancer and we don’t want to lose any more people.”
Among the many relay teams selling chocolate was MMG Insurance’s ‘Striking Out Cancer,” which consists of employees and their families. To grab guest’s attention, they displayed a chocolate fountain at their table and allowed attendants to dip strawberries, apples, and marshmallows in it to cover them with chocolate.
Team Captain Grace O’Neal said the team has been together for 10 years, and that the members have been participating in the relay since it was moved to the Caribou High School Track.
Team member Kasey Estabrook said she lost her grandfather to cancer, and that it’s important for people to participate as it allows local residents to give back to their community for an all too relatable cause.
Estabrook said she’s been on the team for eight or nine years, since she was young.
“It’s really important to me,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot of people in my family to cancer, and it’s important to remember them and give back.”