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June 17, 2009 > No sleep till cure

No sleep till cure

Submitted By Carla Kearin

Relay For Life Opening Ceremony begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 19 at the Milpitas Sports Center. Relay begins with our Cancer Survivors, their families and caregivers doing the honor of the first lap.

Our Survivors are why we are there...they give us hope. After the first lap, the rest of the Teams take to the track to begin walking our Relay. At least one member of your team must be on the track at all times between 6 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.

It is an overnight event, the center of the track is lined with tents and pop ups of all kinds. Some of the campsites are decorated to reflect how important early detection is, or to bring attention to a certain type of cancer.

There are activities during the evening by a lot of the teams to inform the community of cancer awareness, the need for volunteers with the American Cancer Society and what an important role we can play in the lives of a cancer patient.

The Milpitas Fire Department comes out and cooks dinner for everyone. Most of us get delicious hot dogs and hamburgers, nothing like a barbecue done by the Firefighters of our great city. We give a small donation to them in appreciation of the dinner...and they donate all that money to Relay. They do something a little more special for our Survivors.

Their meal is usually something like chicken and tri-tip with a special dessert, and they are seated under the big tent and the Milpitas High School volunteers actually serve them dinner. These kids do a great job, I dont know what we would do without them.

There will be a Silent Auction, with each team donating something special to continue the fund raising effort. Some teams do their own raffles during the evening at their campsites. Lots of things happen. There is a contest for the Best Decorated Tent, the Most Spirited Team, highest individual and Team fundraisers. The favorite part of the evening comes just around dusk...our Luminaria Ceremony.

We sell Luminaria for folks, white paper bags filled with sand and a candle. Each bag has a message of some sort, a special message in honor of someone you love that is fighting this battle and surviving it, still here to hug and tell them you love them, or a special message to remember the loves ones you have lost to a disease that simply takes too much from us.

The Luminaria lap this year will be lead by Iain Sherwood, a bag piper from San Leandro and a cancer survivor himself. Each participant at Relay will be given a glow stick to be lit during a special reading by our MC, bringing attention to just how many of us have been touched by cancer.

Everyone proceeds to follow the bag piper in a lap of silence around the track, reading the messages on the Luminaria and remembering. This is the most emotional part of the evening. It brings home all the emotions from losing someone you have loved to this disease and reminds you of how lucky we are to still have our survivors and how difficult their fight has been.

It is a wonderful place to be to find someone else that understands and shares what happens when you are diagnosed with cancer...a place to get support on all levels.

It is a place to embrace loved ones, to understand how important life is and how lucky we all are. It is a place to find some closure and most importantly of all...It is a place to learn that you do have the power to be able to do something about it. That we are not hopeless...it is a place to go to feel hope in a most amazing way.

It is the only place I have seen so many folks from the neighborhood and from your church and from you gym and from your school...all standing together in the same fight. "Fighting Back" against cancer.

Finally, at around 10 p.m., lights out and folks are able to rest a bit from a long evening, with at least one team member on the track at all times. Then...daybreakÉand our Kiwanis Club cooks us a great sausage and pancake breakfast. Thank goodness, because by this time, we are already lining up...stomachs growling and waving to our team member walking around the track. We may even pass them an orange juice as they walk by the breakfast grill.

There are a few things happening as folks walk up...a King and Queen Bed Head contest and a Rooster Crowing Contest...gets everyone awake and aware...sort of. We are hoping for a little something special this year for our Closing Ceremony. We want our community to continue the fight against cancer all year long.

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