Cheryl Weaver of Purcellville is the chair of this year’s relay. She is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, then again with a re-occurrence in 2007.
“I didn’t think I was worthy of help, but I reached out to people after the 2nd diagnosis and found the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life,” Weaver said. She appreciates the fact that the American Cancer Society works for all types of cancer research.
“When I was in the chemo room for 18 months straight, I saw people with all types of cancer fighting for their lives in there," Weaver said. "I wanted to do something to help."
Society Spokesman Robert Paschen described the relay event as a unique opportunity for the community. Everyone comes together to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember those who have been lost, and fight back against the disease.
“Many of the participants are cancer survivors, and participating in relay helps the American Cancer Society’s efforts to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”
Paschen explained that the Relay for Life is one the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising events, taking place in more than 5,000 communities nationwide. Each relay begins with an inspirational opening ceremony, followed by cancer survivors taking the first lap around the track while others cheer them on.
“One of the more touching, powerful moments of the event is the Luminaria Ceremony which takes place at about 9:15 p.m., at sundown. Participants circle a track that is surrounded with glowing luminaria that bear the name of someone who has battled cancer,” said Community Manager at the American Cancer Society Karen Maricheau. “People all come together for one purpose, one voice, it is very solemn and it is very hope filled."
Heritage High School's Athletic Director Ron Petrella became a cancer survivor in 2004. Our local effort is important for our survivors, he said, as most funds raised stay local.
"It is a wonderful experience to have over 1,000 people together to support survivors, remember loved ones lost to cancer, and raise money to fight back," Petrella said. "The relay event is a great source of hope; hope for a better life without cancer. The event is a combination of smiles, tears, laughter, and love.”
This year, organizers are adding an event called Relay Recess. It is geared for kids so they can participate in the relay walk, cancer awareness activities and games. Relay Recess will run from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Then kids will help kick off the opening lap and will escort the cancer survivors.
Dollars raised at the Relay For Life of Western Loudoun County will help fund the society's mission of creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. The American Cancer has the nation’s only 24-hour cancer hotline, provides free transportation to and from treatment, free lodging during treatment, free support for families, and free programs for more than 3,500 communities nationwide.
Relay For Life also supports the Society’s research efforts. The American Cancer Society is the nation’s largest private nonprofit for cancer research, and has funded the research of 46 Nobel laureates.