By David Aaro
The annual Mandarin Relay for Life kicks off April 30 at Mandarin High School. The event runs from midday until midnight to draw attention to the need to fight cancer both day and night.
Relay for Life is a fundraiser walk, with teams camping out around the track and members of the team taking turns walking around it to symbolize how cancer never sleeps. Food, games and activities help to give it a fun atmosphere.
“It’s a community event. You don’t have to run; it’s a festival environment. This stuff is appealing to not only kids and families, but people in their 20s and 30s as well,” said Kaci Honeycutt, community manager of Relay for Life.
The history of Relay for Life can be dated back to 1985, when Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, ultimately raising $27,000 for the American Cancer Society. Over the years the event has grown and branched out nationwide as a community-based event, while still functioning as the major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. For each dollar raised, 74 cents goes to service and research.
Locally, one of the main supporters and participants in Mandarin’s Relay for Life has been two-time cancer survivor Jennifer Harrington and her family. In 2005 when her brother was diagnosed with cancer, Harrington wanted to do something to support him. She attended Relay that year and never looked back.
The next year she formed her own Relay for Life team with her children, “Kids 4 a Cure,” and has raised more than $75,000 in the past 10 years. Most of the “Kids” are now in college, but they are returning to participate in this year’s Relay.
“The kids were always our team captains; I was usually on the sideline. I loved how it taught them great leadership and communication skills,” said Harrington.
So far this year, there are more than 30 teams participating in Relay for Life Mandarin with roughly 10 – 15 people on each team. This year’s theme is “Fighting for a Happily Ever After,” with teams decorating their campsite in either their favorite superhero or fairy tale character.
The event kicks off at noon with the survivor lap led by the principal of Mandarin High School, Donna Richardson.
“I remember as a survivor coming in with no hair and a ball cap. It was really cool walking the survivor lap with Donna Richardson holding my hand, knowing in my head I beat this. Hearing my kids cheer me still brings tears to my eyes,” said Harrington.
The other main event is the luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. where candles are lit in personalized bags remembering those lost to cancer, honoring those who have fought in the past and supporting those whose fight continues.
People who participate in the Relay do so for different reasons.
“I Relay because my dad is a two-time cancer survivor and I am so grateful to still have him here with us. I am fighting so those who are diagnosed with cancer can have more birthdays,” said Honeycutt
Harrington said, “I Relay because I love this community event; it’s fun and it raises money for a great cause. Everyone has been affected by cancer in one way or another and we need to all work together to help create a world with more birthdays and less cancer,” said Harrington.
Why do you Relay?
You can sign up for the Mandarin Relay at Relayforlife.org/mandarinfl
Photos courtesy Jennifer Harrington
Survivor’s Lap at a recent Mandarin Relay for Life
Jennifer Harrington and Kaci Honeycutt prepare for this year’s Relay for Life.
Kids for a Cure at the 2009 Relay for Life.