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Rockwood prepares for 18th-annual Relay For Life

By: Ellen Lampe

Rockwood students decked out at a past Relay For Life event

It’s officially April, which means Rockwood School District’s Relay For Life event is just around the corner.

Relay For Life is a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society [ACS]. Its goal is to make sure those lost to cancer are never forgotten, those currently facing cancer are supported and, one day, to eliminate cancer.

“It’s a celebration of hope,” Kara White, a parent volunteer in the Rockwood School District, said. “To me, Relay for Life is a way to get everyone involved with something we’re all affected by. Everyone knows someone who’s been affected by cancer. It’s an easy and fun way to give back and honor people.”

The cause is personal for White, who is a breast cancer survivor. She has been in remission for 10 years and involved with Relay for Life for the past seven.

White describes Relay for Life as a “community fun” and “energy-packed” event.

The April 21 event has been in the works since its kick-off in November. For the past five months, students, families and community members have been raising money and preparing. The event rotates among the Rockwood high schools; this year, it will be held at Lafayette High from 3 p.m.-midnight.

“This is the 18th year of Relay for Life in Rockwood,” said Annie Martino, a volunteer and the lead on the Relay For Life Leadership team. “The money raised for the American Cancer Society goes to a lot of different locations, but they are all local.”

At 3 p.m., participants may enter and begin setting up; opening ceremonies begin at 4 p.m. Each year, a “Hero of Hope,” usually a cancer survivor or someone involved with ACS, is chosen to speak. The Relay begins with a lap for survivors, a lap for caregivers and then the opening lap in which everyone joins. There is no shortage of entertainment and fun, including a DJ, games, food, sweets and more.

“The entire night, whatever you buy goes to ACS. You can come and eat and spend your whole evening there,” White said.

One of the more poignant moments happens later in the evening after the sun sets. It’s called the Luminaria Ceremony.

“You decorate a white [lantern] bag to honor someone. We line up around the track and light them and it’s very powerful to see all these lights representing somebody,” White said. “It’s more of a somber event, and we try to reflect on why we’re doing this so [in the future] we don’t have to light any more bags.”

It’s a time to grieve, reflect, honor and hope. White said it is one of her favorite moments of the event.

“I have two daughters, so this is about the future. It’s about prevention,” she said. “So, someday, people won’t have to hear, ‘You’ve got cancer.’”

For more information about the event or to get involved, contact Kate Bohn at kate.bohn@cancer.org or (314) 286-8186.

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