For the seventh annual Relay For Life event, an overnight community fundraising walk, Howard Beach participants raised $52,000, bringing the local event’s seven-year fundraising total to $650,000.
The fundraising event, which takes place in tracks all over the country, honors cancer survivors and those who have lost their lives. Cancer survivors took the first lap around the track as onlookers cheered their victory.
“The goal of Relay For Life is to bring communities together in the fight against cancer,” said Meaghan Neary, special events manager for the American Cancer Society. “At Relay, we aim to celebrate our survivors and caregivers, remember those we’ve lost and pledge to fight back against a disease that has taken too much.”
At sundown, participants lit candles lining the track as part of the luminaria ceremony to remember those who died as a result of cancer, honor people who beat cancer and support those who continue to fight the disease.
Howard Beach resident Noreen Feehan lost her father to duodenal cancer in February. Her father, Lester McCann, was well known throughout the community and coached the Lynvets football team in Howard Beach. Feehan attended the event with her 6-year-old and 8-year-old daughters and said Relay For Life allowed her to teach her children an important lesson.
“I think it’s very important for younger people to attend these events. As my 8-year-old had asked, she said ‘Mommy, why are we celebrating when it’s something sad?’ and I explained it to her that a person’s life is not contained in the sadness of their death,” Feehan said. “It’s in the happiness of their life and the memory of them of when they were alive is what we have to keep alive.”
Feehan said the survivor walk was an important part of changing the stigma of cancer from a death sentence to a disease that can be beaten with the right treatment and mental attitude. She would also like to see the event become a place where people who currently have cancer can come to find more information.
“There’s a lot of good services especially for people who are going through chemotherapy where they have wig services or hat services so that it can also become an event which disseminates information to those who need it,” Feehan said.