Reflections on Relay for Life
SARAH VAN GUILDER releases a dove at the start of Saturday's Relay for Life while Josephine McGrane, at left, watches.
From toddlers opening their piggy banks to adults signing $1,000 checks, Sonoma Valley came together in the fight against cancer last weekend, raising more than $132,000 for the American Cancer Society.
During the 24-hour fundraiser that began Saturday, 55 teams of walkers committed to keeping a member on the track for the duration of the event. In the middle of the night, I began to write, and here are some of my thoughts:
It's 2:24 a.m. on Sunday and I've been working the registration booth at Sonoma's Relay For Life since 8 a.m. Saturday. It'll be another 10 hours of work at least before I find the sweet relief of my own bed and a good night's (or in this case, day's) sleep.
But my spells of sleepiness lift when I look down the track at Sonoma Valley High School and see the hundreds of glowing luminaria bags that flicker across the track. How can you not help but think about the people each of these bags represent? And the mothers, fathers, children and friends who loved them so much they make sure their memory lives on in candlelight - offering a glowing beacon of hope that no one else has to suffer the same fate.
This is what Relay For Life is all about. Hope. Dedication. Love.
It's what brought more than a thousand Sonoma Valley residents to the track to lap mile after mile for a cure.
It is one of the few events on the planet where attendees can openly laugh and cry and dance and mourn. The gamut of emotions is palpable as people experience all the aspects of what this day means.
From the wave of empowerment when a ribbon of purple shirts spans the track during the Survivors Lap, to the utter silliness of men in drag begging for donations during the "Miss Relay Pageant," to the solemn silent walk of remembrance after the luminaria ceremony, Relay For Life is an event like no other.
These late night hours, as tedious as they can feel, are actually my favorite. The hubbub of activities that take place all day has died down and I can reflect on why I'm here. The people I am fighting for.
Now in my fourth year at Sonoma's Relay, I am still constantly amazed at the number of people out on the track at this hour, some of whom have been walking all night.
Our motto is "Cancer never sleeps, and neither do we."
Which reminds me, I need another shot of caffeine if I'm going to make it through the rest of the night. Blessed is the 24-hour Java Wagon.