Getting medieval on cancer

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The event always has a strong following, as there are few families that have not been touched by cancer, and the grand goal is to eliminate cancer as a health concern by the end of this century. Cancer is the number two cause of death in the U.S., behind only heart disease. One out of 100 Americans participate in a Relay For Life event each year.

The local theme this year is “Getting Medieval on Cancer” and some organizers appeared in costume to fit the theme at the organizational meeting. The 2014 goal for Franklin County is to raise $45,000 through 25 returning teams, five new teams, 275 participants and 50 survivors. In 2103, some 26 teams, 246 participants and 48 survivors participated, raising $45,530, noted planning committee organizer Dee LaPlante.

The Relay For Life will again be held at the Farmington Fairgrounds on May 30-31 and begins with a 6 p.m. survivor lap, which can be an emotional time, as other participants applaud these walkers as they round the track. Each year, Franklin Savings Bank serves a free barbecue dinner to the survivors and then to other walkers. Survivors hear an inspirational speaker during their meal and celebrate their survival with a birthday cake. The other individual and team relays take off after this special time.

The local Relay For Life features individuals and teams made up of family members, friends and coworkers who camp out at the fairgrounds, decorate the camp for the annual theme and take turns walking around the track overnight. Because cancer never sleeps, each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. While teams are raising much-needed funds, they also raise awareness of the importance of cancer prevention, early detection, research, treatment and patient support.

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Some team activities have included car washes, yard sales, food and bake sales, tailgate parties, gift wrapping, dances, bounce houses, games and other fundraising activities. Learn more about online fundraising and get signed up at RelayForLife.org.

A solemn and emotional time is the luminaria ceremony around 9:30 p.m, where Relay For Life participants and donors remember loved ones lost to cancer and honor those battling the disease by dedicating luminaria bags. Luminaria bags are transformed and illuminated after dark at every Relay For Life event. Each luminaria is personalized with a name, photo, message or drawing (and $10 donation) in memory or honor of a friend or loved one who has been affected by cancer. Luminaria can also be dedicated in support of a Relay participant. Each luminaria candle represents a person – they are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, coworkers and so many others.

To order luminaries, note whether they should be “In Memory of” or “In Honor of” a person, and order them at Relay For Life – Luminaria, in care of Anna Lyons, Franklin Savings Bank, P.O. Box 825, Farmington, ME 04938 by May 19. For more information, call 778-3339 ext. 1230 or 800-287-0752 ext. 1230.

Businesses can be involved by becoming sponsors at various levels. Benefits may include featuring a company’s logo printed on event t-shirts, banners and other materials, recognition at the opening ceremony and throughout the event, and a company logo posted on the event website.

The American Cancer Society works to help people take steps to prevent cancer or detect it early at its most treatable stages. Half of all cancer deaths can be prevented through healthier lifestyle choices and ACS has the resources and support to keep people motivated to eat right and get active, quit smoking or help a  loved on kick the habit, and understand what cancer screenings are needed. Help includes such things as rides to treatment, patient navigators, the Quit For Life (smoking) program, telephone assistance and referrals, lodging assistance for patients and caregivers, and college scholarships for young cancer survivors.

ACS awards about $100 million annually in new research grants through its disciplined peer review process and more than $3.8 billion has been invested in cancer research since 1946. ACS has played an important role in nearly every major cancer research breakthrough of the past century, including mammography screening, bone marrow transplants, combination chemotherapy for childhood cancers and the development of drugs to treat leukemia and breast cancer. ACS also has fought for legislation protecting screening and follow-up tests for low-income patients.

Information about treatment options is the most requested call the Society receives through its toll-free phone number (1-800-227-2345) and online at cancer.org.

The next local Relay For Life planning meeting is Feb. 18 at FMH’s Chisholm Room.

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