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Weston is ready to relay: Relay for Life is Saturday

weston-relay-Cancer-Walkers This weekend, hundreds of people will spend the night — all night — walking the track at Weston High School for the third annual Weston/Westport Relay for Life.

As of earlier this week, 64 teams — a total of 671 participants — had registered to relay in Weston in order to raise money, awareness, and support for cancer research. The event honors survivors, those who died of the disease, and the countless millions who have been affected by it.

Relay for Life is an overnight relay-style event held at the high school track. Teams camp out overnight, while members take turns walking around the track for the duration of the event, representing the idea that “cancer never sleeps.”

Food, games, activities, and entertainment are provided. Special ceremonies are scheduled throughout the night.

Teams raise money for the American Cancer Society — which celebrates its 100th year this year — through pledges and donations, and by selling items or raffle tickets at the Relay event.

Since its inception in the 1980s, the national Relay for Life movement has grown to where participants are raising a total of more than $18 million per year.

In Weston alone, the first Relay for Life raised $79,000, and last year that increased to about $134,000. This year’s goal is an ambitious but reachable, relay coordinators believe, $150,000.

So far, online donations earlier this week already totaled more than $84,460. But that number is expected to swell as donations are made in person and fund-raisers continue throughout the event on Saturday night and into the wee hours Sunday.

Visit relayforlife.org/westonwestportct to make a donation or to sponsor a particular person or team.

Community

Although it takes place at the high school, Relay for Life is a community event, drawing participants of all ages and walks of life (no pun intended).

Teams are formed by high school sports teams, members of the National Honor Society, fire and EMS personnel, church groups and youth groups, the Kiwanis Club, the drama club, teachers and school staff, work buddies, book clubs, neighbors, family members, and childhood friends.

Teams sport names that range from funny to serious, such as Cancer Crushers, Save a Rack, Got Hope?, Sweat for Survival, Claws for a Cause, Fight All Night, and Impossible Is Nothing. But they all have one thing in common — a desire to support loved ones battling cancer and to put an end to the disease in the future.

Lisa Wolak, principal at Weston High School, points out that the Westport/Weston Relay is special in that, while it includes and embraces the entire community, it is organized largely by high school students.

“To say that this is a special event is an understatement,” said Ms. Wolak, who lost her husband, Glenn, to cancer in 2010, not long before the first Relay for Life at Weston High School. “Under the leadership of our high school students, Relay for Life is a time for all of us to come together and show support for the many people in our community who have been affected by cancer.”

Ms. Wolak’s daughter, Olivia, a senior at Weston High School, is one of the tri-chairs of this year’s Relay Committee, along with Oliver Parker and Justine Belport.

“We’ve been planning and working on this all year, ever since the last relay,” said Oliver. “It’s been pretty hectic this last week leading up to the relay, putting all the pieces together, but it’s all coming together.”

“We’re really excited and we expect a great turnout this year,” added Olivia, who is helping to coordinate the entertainment.

Aside from some of the more formal events throughout the evening, there will be some fun activities like “dance dares” and Zumba at about midnight to keep walkers revved up, and yoga in the early morning hours to help relax and renew the tired masses.

There will also be guest speakers, including First Selectman Gayle Weinstein, and possibly U.S. Congressman Jim Himes (D-4th).

At the speaker’s request, the name of the evening’s keynote speaker is being kept under wraps until Saturday night, when she will speak before the Luminaria Ceremony at 9 p.m.

Research study

Another special feature of this year’s Weston relay is that it was chosen from among hundreds of possible Relay for Life locations as a registration site for the American Cancer Society’s new research study, Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).

Men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have no personal history of cancer are being asked to enroll in CPS-3 to help researchers better understand ways in which cancer can be prevented.

Registration for the study will take place at the high school track between 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday. Nancy Babyak and members of the Kiwanis Club and Weston EMS will be on hand to help with those who are able to give blood on site as part of the study.

“It’s very exciting to be chosen as a CPS-3 site,” Olivia said, pointing out that the Weston relay is one of six going on in Connecticut this weekend alone — and the only one in the area that is a CPS-3 site.

Oliver said he thinks Weston’s involvement in the CPS-3 study is especially meaningful because “there are lots of indirect ways of curing cancer,” such as raising money and participating in events like Relay for Life, “but this is actually a practical, straightforward way of helping to cure cancer.” An earlier, similar study was how the connection between smoking and cancer was made, a discovery that had huge significance, he said.

For more information on CPS-3, email CPS3@cancer.org or call 888-604-5888.

Schedule of events

All are welcome to attend the Westport/Weston Relay for Life for most of the evening on Saturday. Only registered participants are allowed on the track after 11 p.m.

The following are some of the scheduled events during Relay for Life.

Saturday, 2 p.m. — Setup and registration begins at the Weston High School track.

4 — Survivor Tent opens on the field. Survivor’s reception after the opening ceremony includes food and gifts for survivors.

4:30-5 — Walter Durand, an English teacher at Weston High School, will perform acoustic solos.

5-9 — Enrollment in the volunteer Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).

6 — Opening ceremony.

6:30 — Survivors lap. Upbeat music plays while survivors walk the track alone, cheered on by all.

6:35 — Caregivers lap. For the second lap, survivors are joined by anyone who has ever cared for someone with cancer so they may be honored for their support.

8-8:30 — The high school band Chillingsworth performs original and cover tunes.

9 — Luminaria ceremony and Keynote Speaker. People may purchase luminaria as remembrances of or tributes to those with cancer. They line the track and are lit during the ceremony, which is followed by a silent lap.

11 — Fight back ceremony. Everyone is asked to make some kind of specific  commitment to fight against cancer in some way, such as by donating money, pledging to get a mammogram, or volunteering for the CPS-3 study.

11-midnight — Zumba!

Sunday, 7 a.m. — Closing ceremony.

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