Walking Tall, for a Good Cause

This evening begins one of the most poignant and boisterous and multigenerational and successful of the many annual fundraisers on the Island — the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

It begins with a genuine victory lap. The term victory lap has become a cliché, but the men and women who take the first turn around the regional high school’s track at six-thirty this evening all have met a fierce competitor in the form of cancer and survived. In fact, organizers call it a survivors’ lap, but those who walk it are winners in every sense, including that they have made the time and effort to support the relay, which will continue through the night and into Saturday. The event has raised hundreds of millions of dollars nationally for the society.

In teams, sometimes in costumes, with makeshift camps and a collegial, can-do attitude, Islanders young and not so young take their turns walking around the track to draw attention and funds to the need for cancer research. Others in the community come to show support, buying burgers (from five to eight tonight), or in the morning pancakes (from seven to nine), which Rotary club members provide, donating the proceeds to the cause.

Luminaria light the track, rows of thousands of little candles glowing in sand-weighted paper bags, reminding us of those survivors whose light continues to shine among us, and also of those who have taken their last laps in the race against cancer.

It’s all a precious reminder of the fight that faces us all while cancer remains such a mysterious, fickle foe.