If the enthusiasm at last week’s kick-off assembly is any indicator, this year’s Relay For Life at Huntington High School just might be the best one ever.
The auditorium was filled to capacity as students and staff rallied behind the 2017 organizing committee and the event’s mission; to create a world with more birthdays and one less dreaded disease that still claims far too many lives. The sprawling event’s opening ceremony is set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 10. Most participants will remain on the scene throughout the night until the closing ceremony at daybreak on Sunday morning.
Since Huntington’s first Relay For Life in June 2012, the school community has raised more than $700,000 for the American Cancer Society. This year’s goal is $150,000. It’s an ambitious number, but no one should underestimate the energy of the students behind the initiative.
“Relay is a team fundraising event where team members take turns walking around a track or designated path,” according to the American Cancer Society. “Each event is 6-24 hours in length and each team is asked to have a member on the track at all times to signify that ‘cancer never sleeps.’ Cancer patients don't stop because they're tired, and for one night, neither do we. Each team sets up a themed campsite at the event and continues their fundraising efforts by collecting donations for food, goods, games, and activities. This money will count towards their overall team fundraising goal.”
As Huntington students and staff took their seats in the high school auditorium, the group knew something special was about to happen. “The kickoff went great,” said senior Grace Curran, who is one of three event chairs along with senior Christi Reinertsen and junior Jamie Spector. Each of the three teenagers spoke during the kickoff assembly, describing in colorful detail the “amazing accomplishments” of previous Relays, explaining where the monies raised go and the impact of the event on the community at-large.
Ms. Reinertsen’s mother, Peg was on hand at the kick-off assembly to speak about her sister, Mary Liz who lost her battle with cancer last spring. It was hard not to get choked up listening to the touching story. Every person who battles cancer has a uniquely personal fight. Most can only get through it with the support of their family and friends.
“We engaged the crowd in an activity in which they held up glow sticks to represent how cancer has affected them or their loved ones,” Ms. Curran said. “While the auditorium looked beautiful glowing purple, we reminded all students that it is unfortunate to have so many affected by cancer in all of our lives. The activity proved that each and every person in our school has a reason to fight against the disease at our event.”
Huntington’s National Honor Society chapter takes the lead in putting together the Relay For Life each spring, but many other school groups are also integral to the event’s success. This year’s committee is small in numbers, but strong in its commitment to the event.
National Honor Society faculty advisors Joseph Cohen and Tara Fisher oversee the organizing committee, put the pair prefers to let students “take the bull by the horns” and do as much of the work as possible.
The three general event chairs are supported by a group of senior leadership members who head a variety of subcommittees, including Noah Morris, Jack Glicker, Rachel Moss, Katie Burton, Maddie Shea, Maggie Giles, Emma Petrizzi, Hailey Gallagher and Jordan Biener. Emma Pipolo created a well-received video that was played during the kick-off assembly.
“As always, we are trying to make this Relay our best yet, working with our [American Cancer Society] staff partner, Morgan Wright,” Ms. Curran said. (Huntington’s longtime ACS staff partner Alyssa Patrone is on a maternity leave.)
With about three months to go before the event, 32 teams with 142 participants have already formed. The 16-member strong Purple Matters team headed by Lena Annunziata had raised $650 by last Saturday. Huntington Highsteppers team member Casey Moskowitz has already personally raised $450.
Teams representing the Huntington School Board and the Associated Teachers of Huntington have also registered and will be on the scene June 10-11.