The 2009 South Windsor/Rockville Relay for Life has wrapped up and was a great success. The event’s 78 teams raised over $187,000 for the American Cancer Society. Connecticut Valley Atheists managed to raise a total of $790, and as team captain I’m really happy to thank everyone who donated to us, helped us raise money, walked with us and provided us with necessary materials, ideas and inspiration. There is no way we could have done this without all of you.
Several times along the way I was asked why the event was even taking place. After all, the 24-hour walk was entirely separate from the fundraising process, so why walk at all? Why not just raise money and give it to the ACS? All along my answer was that people are more willing to donate to an event than to a cause, and that by showing some visible effort, even symbolically, people will understand our seriousness and be willing to help.
I stand by that answer. But at the event this weekend I saw more reasons piling up. We celebrated survivors, remembered lost loved ones, thanked supporters and threw a great party. Inside the track were dozens of booths with bake sales, crafts, flowers, face and hair painting, a moon bounce, a massage tent, raffles, all manner of items for sale (one church group was selling plastic toys including lightsabers, and I took delight in the irony of a Christian organization purveying Jedi weaponry) and other great carnival-themed fun. Money raised through these efforts, of course, also went to the ACS. Outside there was live music, moving speeches, an animated feature film, more great food, and a demonstration of the latest advances in the field of robotics. Lining the whole inside perimeter of the track were thousands of luminaria; lighted candles inside paper bags, each one dedicated in memory to a particular person taken by cancer, which burned beautifully through the night and into the dawn.
Many of the teams consisted of survivors and their friends and family. Many more walked in memory. To them, the event is inspirational, something they look forward to all year, and a reason for those whose health is failing to hang on. Indeed, the Relay for Life is a fundraising event, but it is obviously so much more than that as well.
I walked 25 miles on Friday and well into Saturday morning. Only now is the pain in my legs, feet and back beginning to recede. This discomfort could not be compared to even one percent of the pain inflicted upon someone stricken with cancer; it is not a thousandth of the sacrifice that doctors, nurses and caregivers make to alleviate that pain and aid in recovery; it could never be a millionth of the heartache that a family feels when they lose someone they love.
And so I thank everyone again for helping us out, and hope we can count on your support again next year.