On Saturday, June 5 through 6, the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Patchogue-Medford took place. It was a 24-hour event, symbolic of the fact that cancer never sleeps.
Seventy-eight teams and 640 participants raised a total of $46,680.84, before and during the event.
The Patchogue-Medford community had been raising funds since January for this uplifting event, through a variety of creative means such as selling paper stars, providing a link for donations on Facebook; and organizing a car wash, bike sale and golf tournament.
Luminary bags were sold for the Luminaria Ceremony, a highlight of the Relay.
These meaningful bags are decorated in memory and honor of people with cancer. After dark, candles placed next to bags are lit. During this introspective time a silent walk occurs and those who have lost their lives to cancer are remembered.
Diane Maragioglio said, "I love the luminary bags. It's very emotional; it gives you a snap-shot of everyone who was affected by cancer."
Maragioglio is the captain of the team Izzy's Angels. Her husband Izzy passed away from cancer in 2008. She and her family and friends were one of many groups who set up a tent to camp out for the duration of the 24-hour festival.
Their tent had a tropical motif, adorned with brightly colored flowers also worn in their hair. They were selling Hawaiian lays and homemade baked goods.
The team's captain said the theme was chosen because, "I love the Caribbean." They raised $2,573.
The Relay For Life is a life-affirming occasion. Each year more than 3.5 million people, in 5,000 communities in the U.S., along with additional communities in 20 countries unite to take part in this global movement.
It gives communities a chance to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer and remember lost loved ones while taking a stand against a disease that takes too much.
At Relay, teams of people camp out and take turns walking or running around a track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the overnight stay.
The evening began with a Survivor Reception at 6 p.m. where all cancer survivors were invited to attend a dinner, which was donated by several eateries in town. This was followed by the 7 p.m. Opening Ceremonies, including the traditional Survivor Lap.
This year breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge's ode to overcoming the disease, I Run for Life, blared through speakers, pumping-up participants for the long and rewarding night ahead.
This was hardly a solemn affair it had more of a festival vibe. There was even a Zumba class, dunk tank and Chinese auction.
The Patchogue-Medford High School Concert Chorus camped out all night and kicked off the festivities by performing the National Anthem.
Chorus member Kayla Regan said they were there to, "show that music supports everyone."
Robotics 329, a team made up of Patchogue-Medford High School students organized a pie-in-the-face incentive to donate.
Patchogue-Medford High School assistant principal Tim Regan was one of the extremely good sports willing to take a few pies in the face for a good cause.
Robotics team member Michele Mooney said he was "more than thrilled ... and a lot of kids will line up because he's given out a lot of detentions."
Denise Santillo and Rosanne Beller, physician liaisons for Medical Arts Radiology, set up a table. Beller said, "We're being supportive of the community and here for educational purposes." Beller was struck by the, "energy and ambiance .... It's heartfelt. It's just amazing how supportive the family members are."
Medical Arts Radiology was presented with an award from Pamela Parker, special events manager for Relay For life, for being one of the biggest supporters of the event.
Parker thanked the Patchogue-Medford School District, the high school and the community. She said, "You guys have done an amazing job and I know we're going to announce a big number tomorrow morning."
Patchogue-Medford High School principal Randy E. Rusielewicz addressed the crowd. He said, "My father is a 10-year cancer survivor; events like this are very near and dear to my heart."
The guest speaker was cancer survivor Syndee Zegel. She and several of her friends were all diagnosed with breast cancer within a few weeks of each other. They were all under the age of 43.
Now in remission, she stressed the importance of breast cancer screening beginning before age 40. She said, "I'm living proof that early detection is key."
Zegel ended her moving speech by saying, "I'm here for those who have lost their loved ones and hope that soon, thanks to our fundraising efforts, a cure will be found."
To find out more information on how you can get involved in next year's Relay For Life go to relayforlife.org/patchoguemedfordny, or for cancer information 24 hours a day, seven days a week go to cancer.org or 1 800-ACS-2345.