Overcoming unstable weather that unleashed its worst burst at an inopportune time, Glen Rock’s 12th annual Relay for Life on May 16-17 was a rousing success as organizers and Relay teams blew well past their $80,000 fundraising goal.
Co-chair Donna Nihen said the event’s hallmark commitment and spirit ruled the day and night at the Hamilton School grounds, as participants drove the tally beyond $92,000 — with donations still coming in.
While heartily saluting all those connected with this year’s drive benefiting the American Cancer Society (ACS), Nihen this week expressed special congratulations to the three most profitable teams, the St. Luke’s (Ho-Ho-Kus) Youth Group led by Glen Rock’s Kathy McCann, Team Panicucci (led by Relay chair Ron Panicucci) and Team Go The Distance.
Unfortunately, the system’s major damper sullied one of the event’s centerpieces – the Luminaria ceremony held at 10 p.m. Saturday, described by the ACS as “a time to remember people who currently have cancer, and to honor people who have fought cancer in the past.”
Attended by as many as 1,000 people in past years, the solemn and emotional Luminaria procession around the track is traditionally guided by lighted bags along the oval, assembled by Glen Rock High School students. It follows the “Fight Back” ceremony, and precedes “Silent” and “Stand By Me” laps at 11 and 11:15 p.m., the latter enabling participants to walk “with someone who supports you every day.”
But this year, an unexpected cloudburst erupted just as the walkers were poised to begin, forcing the hasty relocation of the ceremony to the Hamilton School gymnasium.
“The bags were lined up around the track, and no sooner had they been filled with sand and unlit candles when the wind started picking up, and the rain came down. But our kids did an amazing job,” said Nihen, “scurrying around the track and gathering up the bags in bunches and bringing them into the gym. Unfortunately we did lose some, but most were saved and aligned in a circle around the gym floor.”
The participants reassembled around the perimeter and in the center of the circle, for the ceremonial illumination of the bags bearing the names of those being honored, with the candles replaced by glow-sticks. The gathering then commenced the “reflecting walk” around the gym backed by music piped through speakers.
While strollers did their late night laps, others were entertained by games, activities and music.
Grateful to all involved for the Relay’s success, Nihen said, “As we reflect on our loved ones who have been affected by cancer, we also see how much has been accomplished. Having been involved with Relay For Life in Glen Rock for over 12 years, and seeing the progress that has been made in cancer research, we realize the importance of our ongoing involvement and the impact Relay has made.
“Although we have much work to do until cancer is eliminated, through research and discoveries, there are so many more birthdays being celebrated in our community, and in our world.”