Harold Osborne plans to spend the entire day going in circles. On June 18, when teams of people will circle the track at Madison High School during Relay for Life, Osborne will be a tram of one. “I’m going to do this whole thing and then some all by myself,” he said.
Relay for Life is in its 20th year of raising funds for the American Cancer Society. It began in Tacoma, Wash., when a single man circled a track in a kind of walk-a-thon. The next year, he was joined by others and the event has grown into a nationwide spectacle.
Osborne’s solo walk will hearken back to that first long walk, said Stacy Capra, one of the organizers of Vienna’s Relay for Life. “I feel like we’re bringing back that symbolism of that first relay,” she said.
Osborne, 41, has been inspired to enter the walk by his sister, Kathleen Figgs, who is battling cancer. During Relay for Life, Osborne plans to walk around the track at Madison for 24 hours. He’ll bring some small provisions with him and just keep walking. “Whatever effort I have to put in, it’s nothing compared to what my sister’s gone through in the past year,” Osborne said. “Think of those people who have to drag themselves out of bed to go to chemo (therapy) once a week.”
Capra, a cancer survivor, began organizing this year’s Relay for Life in January 2004, along with co-chairs Debbie Buhl-Bacigalupo and Melissa Sherwood Rosen. “First and foremost, it’s a celebration of life,” Capra said.
Capra’s father died in September 2001 after battling cancer, himself. “I knew all along I wanted to do something in his memory,” she said. After being diagnosed herself, she had to put organizing Vienna’s Relay for Life on hold.
Relay for Life involves teams, typically of 8-15 people, who takes turns walking the track. As a team, they raise funds which are then donated for cancer research. Capra said that nearly 120 teams and more than 1,200 people, many of them under 18, are registered to participate.
Teams have been organized by local schools, churches and businesses. “We are on track to become the top rookie relay team in Relay for Life history,” Capra said.
Activities will be offered throughout the day, but they will be generally restricted to the participants in the relay. The opening ceremonies, scheduled for 2 p.m., and the luminaria ceremony, scheduled for 9 p.m., are both open to the public.
Individuals who are interested in organizing teams and raising funds to participate can learn more by visiting www.viennarelay.org.