Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back!
Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back...that is why we relay!
June 11 marked the 10th anniversary of Relay for Life in Swift Current. As Ceremony Chair of the Organizing Committee, it was important to me to recognize these three components in the ceremonies.
The ‘celebrate’ part of relay was captured in the Opening Ceremony with the encouraging words of Yvonne Laviolette, survivor, as she spoke of her journey with malignant melanoma skin cancer. The celebration continued as the survivors gathered on the track for the first lap of the relay. For some, it was the first year wearing the unfamiliar yellow shirt, but for many it was a celebration of another year of kicking cancer’s butt. It is also a time to celebrate with your team, those who support you all year long.
I know for my team, Arlene’s Angels – High on Life, it is a celebration for us to put on our ‘hippie’ clothing and meet at the track. When we leave, exhausted, in the morning we promise ‘next year...same time, same place. We will be back!’ As a survivor, I take that hope and that promise and tuck it in away in my jeans, and it keeps me going until ‘next year’.
To remember, we have a Luminary Ceremony at approximately 10 p.m. The luminaries on the track, are simultaneously lit, to honour those that are still fighting, and to remember those that have fought hard and lost the battle. Their spirits are with us as we observe a minute of silence in the crisp, cool air, with only the glow of the luminaries lighting up the track. The silence is traditionally broken by the sound of the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace, courtesy of the Green Braes Pipes and Drums. Following a few laps of remembrance, Shirley Munro, Luminary Chair explained briefly the meaning of the Luminary Ceremony.
I was given the honour this year of reading a memorial tribute to Isabelle Estabrooks, who lost her short battle with cancer on December 17, 2010. In the words of her sister, Barb Golden, “though her time was short, she was strong, brave, and wise to the end. She was very loved, and experienced a peaceful passing with her family by her side.” This personifies the ‘remember’ part of relay, we remember who is not present physically at the track with us and we honour their memory. Patrick Estabrooks, Isabelle’s son, was our guest for the Luminary Ceremony this year. On behalf of his family, and as a tribute to his mother, Patrick courageously agreed to pay a musical tribute to his mother. His strong, clear voice echoed around the track as he sang, “Remember Me”. He ended his song, with the words “thanks mama”. I know his mother was smiling down on her son that evening, as his song touched us all.
Fight Back is the final ceremony of the evening and takes place at approximately midnight. The ceremony was started with a controversial CCS video which really portrays the ‘fight back’ spirit, fueled by the anger of what cancer has taken away from those in the video. This year, Christine Ciona composed a story which read like a Dr. Seuss book. Christine’s writing skills, perfect intonation and animation made it a compelling tale to listen to. The theme of the story was that we can choose to let cancer get the best of us, or we can choose to fight back. We are fighting back by living our lives being present, being hopeful, being positive. We can choose to live strong and let our light shine. The energy Christine brings to the stage encourages all of us to ‘ keep on keeping on’.
Roxana Fryklund, the Unit Manager of the Canadian Cancer Society in Swift Current considered the evening a huge success and credited the success of the evening to the Organizing Committee. She noted that the top five fund-raising teams and the top five fundraisers and their totals were as follows: Top Five teams 1. Rack Pack - $17,058. 2. Arlene’s Angels - High on Life - $6,326.
3. Tough As Teal - $6,256.34. 4. I Care - $4,147.49. 5. All Night For Bees Fight - $3,137.93 Top Five Participants 1. Shelby Budd - $4,190. 2. Alicia Siemens - $4,111.34.
3. Mary Taylor Keefe - $3,700. 4. Rod Olson - $2,420. 5. Jennifer Peree - $2,226.
Team members from Arlene’s Angels - High on Life were among the individuals fighting back against cancer at the Relay for Life in Swift Current on June 11.