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VIDEOS: 2014 Bethel Relay for Life KickOff Event Takes Place Despite Snow Storm Delay

Photography and Report by Paula Antolini

See more photos and two videos here: picturesbypaula.com

The American Cancer Society 2014 Bethel "Relay for Life" (RFL) KickOff Event took place at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at Tonelli's Restaurant, 41 Grassy Plain Street in Bethel, CT.  A snowstorm required the rescheduling of the event to Wednesday, originally scheduled for the day before. However, it did not stop the enthusiasm of volunteers to go full force ahead for the planning of the upcoming 2014 Relay for Life in Bethel, which will take place on Friday, June 13 to Saturday, June 14, 2014 at the Bethel High School track.

With lots of fanfare, including prizes, music, balloons, a video, a lovely cake (from Melissa Andros), and food, beverages and space donated by Tonelli's Restaurant, the event began on a high note.

As the 20th Year is Celebrated, the theme of this year's event is "REUNION" and it is why the event will run 20 hours long, 4:00 p.m. Friday into Saturday, with the closing ceremony at 12 noon. The Relay For Life event signifies a day in the life of a cancer patient - a full day. That is the reason it goes through the darkness of night and into sunrise the next day.  Organizers are hoping to have many old friends join the Relay again, those who have participated in the past 19 years, and they look forward to having many new Relayers join the event as well.

The three tri-chairs of the "Leadership Team for 2014" are Laura McCormick, Maryclaire Quine and Carol Ann Viebrock. They each stated "why they relay" and how many years they have been volunteering. McCormick 18 years, Quine 16 years, and Viebrock 15 years. Bethel is fortunate to have such dedicated leaders. All three have had cancer experiences in their families.

Laura has been traveling internationally as a "Global Trainer" and has trained teams in Kenya and Zambia, among many world locations.  She has been Chairperson of the Relay for 5 years total (various years) including this year, and Relaying for 18 years.

Maryclaire Quine has held the positions of Team Captain, Committee Member, Event Chair, Celebration on the Hill Ambassador, New England Division RFL Task Force 2006 - 2009, New England Training Team 2010 - present.  Quine joined these organizations so that she could "help other volunteers have all the information they need to aid in the mission of the American Cancer Society."

Fifteen years ago Carol Ann Viebrock was inspired to participate in RFL when her company formed a team for the Relay For Life of Wilton. Viebrock was later inspired to join a Cancer Prevention Study being conducted by the American Cancer Society.  Viebrock was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago and gave permission to the American Cancer Society to study her medical records in an effort to learn from them.  As a survivor, in 2013 she was RFL Honorary Chairperson and participated in the RFL opening ceremony to share her journey with others and she has been dedicated to helping the American Cancer Society.

All other volunteer leadership team members were asked to stand and introduce themselves. Volunteers, survivors, caregivers, relatives of survivors, and young volunteers too, also stood and answered the same question "Why do you Relay?" and also how long they've been relaying.  There were many touching and inspiring sentiments, here are two:

Five year volunteer and Bethel resident Teresa Fogel said,
"In Memory of my Mom who never stopped fighting.
I relay for the Fallen, those who have lost their battle.  
I relay for the Courageous, those who are fighting the battle of their lives.
I relay for the Survivors, those who have won their greatest battle."

Teenager and life-long Bethel resident Paul Foster, age 18, said he Relays after he experienced his grandmother Patricia Foster pass in 2006 of leukemia, and his other grandmother Peggy Bertozzi, cured, one and a half years ago.

The tri-chairs spoke of the great success of the past 20 years and how Relay for Life began.

Bethel's first community event was in 1994, which had 9 teams and raised $9,000, which was donated to the American Cancer Society to help pay for Research, Education, Advocacy and Service.  

In 2003 the Relay for Life was the largest with over 90 teams and over $269,000 raised.  This was also the year of the beginning trend of neighboring communities spinning off from Bethel’s Relay for Life to start Relays in their own towns. Newtown, Brookfield, New Milford, Ridgefield, and New Fairfield now all have very successful Relays. This means overall thousands more people are Relaying and raising more awareness and more money for the American Cancer Society. Bethel is a proud parent of Relay.

In 2009, the 15th year, Bethel’s Relay For Life was honored to be a recruitment site for the research study, Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS3). They surpassed their goal by signing up 160 participants to the CPS3 who will help with the next breakthrough in ending cancer in our lifetime.  CPS stands for Cancer Prevention Study, the first of which was in 1947 which scientifically proved that smoking causes cancer. These research studies survey the populations to gather information that will help determine how we can prevent cancer.

So in 19 years of Relay For Life in Bethel, the events have raised over $3 MILLION in the fight against cancer.  They want you to remember that it isn’t about the DOLLARS, it’s about WHAT THE DOLLARS CAN DO.  The Bethel community can be very proud of how Bethel’s Relay For Life has contributed to creating a world with more birthdays.

Maryclaire Quine read a Native American Prayer, saying it reminds her of her Mom. (Also see video link here.):

"I give you this one thought to keep -
I am with you still - I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the sweet uplifting rush,
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still in each new dawn."

(It happened to be Quine's birthday that night so everyone sang Happy Birthday.)

Quine then introduced Karen Mattera, and said, "To honor all those people who did not win their battle with cancer, Karen Mattera has a beautiful song she'd like to sing for us." (See video here for performance.)  Mattera then sang "A Living Prayer" by Allison Kraus, accompanied by guitarist David Mancusi.  Mattera said, "I'd like to remember my father who passed on 4 years ago from cancer, so I sing this for him."

Laura McCormick also read a passage about a volunteer's experience.

Everyone was then asked to set up the Luminaria bags they had written sentiments upon. Quine said, "To honor our survivors and as we remember those who have lost their battle with cancer, please break a glow stick and light your Luminaria now."

Quine said, "We have celebrated and remembered, now it’s time to fight back! And as you know, we fight back against cancer by RELAYing!"

Details of the June 2014 event were then discussed, and they suggested people NOT walk straight for the entire 20 hours. This means teams take turns, walking and resting, eating and playing, taking part in the activities - of which there will be MANY! - and even leaving the Relay early and coming back again for the ending.

The June event will start at 4pm with a balloon release.  The survivors reception will be on the field this year, in a large tent, so they can be part of the festivities earlier and not miss anything.  Later it will be converted into a "Relay Hotel."  Next is the formal opening ceremony and survivor and caregiver laps at 7pm. The Luminaria Ceremony is approximately 9pm. There will be "Midnight Madness" this year under a full moon!  The Sunrise Ceremony is at 4:30am. Games, activities, and contests are being planned for the morning, along with more fundraising.  The Fight Back Ceremony will be mid morning and Closing ceremony will be a 12 noon.

American Cancer Society Representative Dave Andros showed the T-shirts for the 2014 year and explained that the T-shirts are the first reward for team captains for raising $100.00 and that there are many other incentives and prizes, depending on how much is raised, part of the "Nationwide Individual Fundraising Club."  As he concluded he held up the purple survivor shirt.

McCormick said that "the goal for this year is 55 teams and to raise $140,000 and invite 80,000 to celebrate with the RFL."  So far this year, there are 22 teams and 59 participants that have raised $6,766.75.  

Top participants in Bethel so far this year are Erin Nielsen, $1,583.25, Allison Hughes-Randall, $1,426.75, and Laura McCormick, $1,012.50.  Top teams in Bethel so far this year are: Captain's Cure-ageous, $2,210.00, Cancer Caregivers, $1,793.25, and MOMS Club of Bethel, $1,461.75. (from relayforlife.org)

Last year's top fundraising individuals were acknowledged:
First Place: (for second year in a row) Doris Peterson $9,070.00
Second Place: Maryclaire Quine $3,559.00
Third Place: Eric Hermanson (and kids)

"Beginning teams" who excelled in their first year (teams that were new in 2013 and raised at least $100 per team member) were:
The Atkins Army $6,304.00 -21- Jason Atkins  
St. Thomas' Episcopal Church $3,920.00 1-5 -Diane Carlson
Johnson Jaguars $2,748.00 -9- Kathleen Quader
Lime Green Renda Machine $2,456.00 -18- Jamie Morgan
G.I. Jane $2,204.00 -15- Susan Carrizzo
Team Aag - Race for A Cause $2,115.00 -1- Joseph Corera
The Atkins Army, Junior $2,055.00 -10- Maggie Atkins
Escape Salon $1,993.00 -9- Maria Rodrigues
Girl Power $1,739.00 -5- Victoria Gracy
Wolverines $1,598.00 -16- Michele Reid 203-744-0132
DRS Consolidated Controls $1,562.00 -2- Stephanie Roberts  
Crosstown Band $1,156.00 -8- Greg Johnston
Walk the Walk $1,005.00 -5- Erin Shaughnessy
After Hours Crew $960.00 -5- Erin Lionetti
WTFC: Walk to Fight Cancer $830.00 -7- Jenna Wilkie
Moms Club of Bethel $591.00 -5- Abigail Randall

From relayforlife.org:

What Is Relay For Life?
Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through the Relay For Life movement.

Celebrate

During a Relay event, participants and survivors celebrate what they've overcome.

Remember
We remember people lost to the disease, and honor people who have fought or are fighting cancer.

Fight Back
The event inspires Relay participants to take action against a disease that has taken too much.

"We won't stop until we finish the fight against cancer!"

(http://www.relayforlife.org/)


***

To organize a team or volunteer for the Bethel Relay for Life click here.

To find the location and date of a Relay event near you click here.

***

The RFL early history is: "Relay for Life began when one man, Colorectal Surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt, decided in 1985 that he needed to do something to raise awareness and funds to help his patients. He ran and walked around a track in Tacoma Washington for 24 hours with the support of the American Cancer Society, his friends, and his patients. Relay For Life was born and has grown into the worlds largest not for profit fundraising event with over 5200 events nationwide, and another 1000 world wide, with over 20 countries holding RFL event. Relay now raises over 1 Million dollars every day. But more than that, it gives communities a way to celebrate, remember and fight back against cancer."


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