Long Day's Journey into Light

Long Day's Journey into Light

Relay's success rests on early preparation.

They're on their way. In homes, schools and work places in Vienna, people are gearing up for a journey that will continue through the night until morning's light. They are the Relay for Life walkers whose goal is helping the fight against cancer.

They will not sleep "because cancer does not sleep ... and someone is always working" on the fight against cancer, according to co-chair Irene Ward, of Vienna of the Relay for Life.

To meet the goal of overcoming cancer, the Vienna chapter of the American Cancer Society has set a goal of raising $500,000. They're on their way with $37,000 raised. "ACS does great training which] really helps us understand how much of what we raise goes toward the cause," she said. Last year Vienna Relay for Life spent $356 and raised $391,000; "everything else was underwritten by sponsors," said Ward.

Funds come from events being held by youths, families and teams, event sponsors, and from pledges made to walkers. Seventy-one teams are signing up members to join them during the walk at Kilmer Middle School which begins on June 9 and ends on June 10. In the past two years, many teams have sold items during the relay, such as tee shirts, at their team "camp site." Teams "thoughtfully choose names" and themes to promote the event and many decorate their camp site to fit their theme, said Ward.

Last year, Ward's team, "Seeds of Hope" decorated their site with plant "pots and growing things."

All attending can participate in the Luminaria Ceremony taking place on the evening of the 9th. The ceremony is "the relay's culmination," said Ward, honoring the survivors and those who have died from cancer and celebrating the months of work. Luminaria bags — containing sand and a candle — will be available for purchase and the name of a survivor or a person who died would be written on the bags. The illuminated bags are placed around the field and participants, holding lit candles, walk around the track.

"Can you imagine 2,000 people? ... everyone of them, practically, had a candle and was walking the track. You see the power and the emotion of what it takes to deal with the loss and the fight of cancer," said Ward recalling last year's ceremony.

"It's just hard to put into words — it's soul searching," said past participant Paulette Thomas of Vienna. "It makes you stop and think and look back because it's not just your luminaria. Every one of those lights signifies someone who is part of someone's life. It's bittersweet," added Thomas.

Ward became involved two years ago after friends and organizers Debbie Bacigalupo and Stacy Capra asked her to help and because she has a friend who is battling cancer. "I'm a small part of an important cause — I've learned about how selfless people are. People are willing to give up a lot to be involved. I'll be involved a long time. I see what ACS is doing and I think it's a great organization."

To join a team, start a team, become a sponsor or learn more

about relay for life, go to www.viennarelay.org or call Nikkii Greenleaf of the American Cancer Society at 703-938-5550.