By Gail Paquette
Memories lit up for hundreds of people who gathered Friday night at Loyalist College.
There were luminary candles bearing photos and messages honouring those who lost their fight with cancer. There were those on the journey to recovery, survivors and caregivers who lit up the sports field at 10 p.m. during the Relay For Life.
“May tonight’s luminaries light our track, light the road to hope and ignite our passion to work and fight for cures,” said Jeff Brace, past president of the Hastings, Prince Edward and Brighton Canadian Cancer Society, moments before the 1555 candles were ignited.
“Tonight as we embark on this journey, may the wonderful spirit of those we remember, those we celebrate and those deeply committed caregivers, inspire us to continue fighting back to eradicate cancer,” said Brace.
The twelfth annual Relay for Life brought 73 teams and over 700 participants to Loyalist College at 7 p.m. with the main goal to raise money and find a cure for cancer.
What ensued was a tribute to those fighting, those who lost the fight and those affected by the disease. It was about hope and a celebration of life.
“We emphasize the word life,” said Karen White, president of the Hastings, Prince Edward and Brighton Cancer Society. “Once you are here, we have you here for life.”
After the opening ceremonies, the victory lap began. The 200 survivors included small children and the elderly – cancer is not an age-specific disease.
On the main stage local musicians played, contests ensued and announcements were made throughout the 12-hour overnight event. On the perimeter of the field, tents and trailers became team headquarters. Relay For Life team members took turns to walk or run around a track.
Participants enjoyed camping-out, entertainment, good food, games and camaraderie all sharing a common purpose – the desire to help fight cancer and to support those affected.
At Betty’s Bistro, Florence Fleming was busy putting final touches on her team’s display. “The judges will be here soon, I want to win the contest,” she said.
The area surrounding Betty’s Cookin Crew’s tent was decorated like a café to honour her mother Betty who was a chef. The tent-decorating contest was one of the activities organized by the committee and the atmosphere was festive.
Fleming, who lost her mother 13 years ago, has participated every year. This year she and her team of chefs lit 52 candles and raised $9000 for the cure. The total raised at the event was $228, 948.01.
“This gives me a chance to honour my mom and my sister who I also lost to cancer, just two years ago. It is a chance for all of us affected to let off a little steam, tonight we say ‘lets feel good,” said Fleming.
“The luminary ceremony is emotional, I have a good cry and that’s okay, then we go out and continue the party.”
Following the luminary ceremony, accompanied by the RCAF Pipe and Drum Band playing Amazing Grace, a moment of silence blanketed the field.
“This is our way of recognizing those we hold dear as heroes and of expressing our pride and gratitude for the courage and strength they demonstrate to us,” said Brace. “They inspire us to eradicate cancer.”
Carney Davis, who walked alone, has been affected six times. Two years ago he lost his wife and was there in her honour.
“She was a wonderful girl,” said seventy-one year-old Davis.” I miss her and tonight I am here to walk for her.”