By Susan Monteleone
MONTICELLO June 8, 2004 Despite the cold temperatures and rain, over 1,500 cancer survivors and others joined to participate in the 7th Annual Relay for Life at the Town of Thompson Park in Monticello this past Saturday and Sunday.
The event was part of 3,800 other Relays that celebrated cancer survivorship and hopes. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the Relay for Life is the largest grassroot fund-raiser in the world, which helps give everyone a chance to participate in the fight against cancer.
The event continued all through Saturday night, joining teams of 8 to 15 people who camped out on a community site and took turns walking a circular path to help raise awareness and funds to support cancer research, education advocacy and patient services.
The event also allowed the survivors a chance to honor loved ones lost to the disease in an evening candlelight vigil.
Grand Marshall and cancer survivor Joseph Czajka stated in his opening ceremony speech Saturday, "Today is a celebration of survivorship and to honor and pay tribute to those who lost their battle with cancer, and in their memory it is up to us to keep going and to help in finding a cure."
Pam Bossert, one of the organizers of the events, stated, "Cancer is still one of the leading killers of men and women in America. Today is about raising money to help find a cure and to advocate for services and to create awareness. Cancer affects men just as much as women. Men can also get breast cancer, and the best advice I can give anyone is to know your body. Watch your diet, exercise, do not smoke and limit drinking."
Also at the event was Sullivan County Legislature Chair Chris Cunningham, who stated, "We need to do whatever we can to fight this disease. I lost my father to this disease at a very young age, and if we work at searching for a cure together, we will find one. Today's event is important, and we are raising awareness with an event such as this one."
Tina Batista, who works for the American Cancer Society out of the Hudson Valley office, was on hand to help and noted, "The American Cancer Society has many tools for research out there for people who have cancer and/or have survived cancer. People can go online at www.cancer.org or can call 24 hours a day at 1-800-ACS-2345 and speak to an actual human being. Getting people informed here today is a very important step, as well as honoring those who have survived as well as those who have not survived. Today is just one simple step that so many others have already taken and conquered and survived, and we are so happy for all of our survivors."
Maureen Velten, an ovarian and endometrial cancer survivor, and her dog Katie (who survived bladder cancer) were participants in the overnight event.
"Today is truly an inspirational event, and it is nice to be with others that have experienced what we have and to just talk freely about it. The most important part of today is just celebrating life and enjoying it one day at a time," she stated.
Joel Lerner, also a cancer survivor, noted, "I run magic shows for children who have cancer and try to tell them to believe. If children can see and believe, then there is always hope, and I try to convey that message through my magic shows. People have to remember: take it a day at a time. Life is hard by the yard, but by the inch life is a cinch, and take it a day at a time."
The 24-hour walk and camp event raises funds for the local area as well as for continuing research to aid in finding a cure for cancer.