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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Relay for Life 2013 - My Personal Scrapbook

Everybody has probably heard of the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words", right?  Well, in this special edition of the Thursday Diary, I thought that by sharing several pictures coupled with captions explaining the story behind the pictures that you would all get a better idea of what my experiences were like at the 2013 Relay for Life event that was held in my hometown on June 14 and 15.

This Thursday Diary is going to be structured a little bit differently than past ones.  For one, you will not see the classic Comic Sans MS font that you're accustomed to, as I think the regular font that I use will make more of an impact.

Secondly, this post is going to be extremely image heavy, and not so text heavy.  That's because I have a lot that I have to share with all of you, and I don't want to leave out any details.

And, lastly, this may very well be the most colourful entry that you will be exposed to.  That's because I'm trying to make this blog entry read like an actual scrapbook that you can leaf through.  Just imagine me using a 12-pack of Sharpies in different colours when you read each caption underneath the pictures.  Again, I think this is probably the best way that I have to present my experiences with the Relay for Life, so I hope you enjoy it.

NOTE:  This was the entry that I really wanted to write last Saturday, but was way too exhausted to type.  I'm making up for lost time.

So, let's begin with page one of this virtual scrapbook of the 2013 Relay for Life.

All right, so to begin this look back on the Relay for Life 2013 edition, why don't I begin by introducing our team!  These are the twenty people who came out to represent the Walmart Cancer Kickers this year.  From left to right, Top row:  Christina, Albert, Matthew (a.k.a. ME!), Paul, Jay.  Middle row:  Sarah, Lorrie, Roxanne, Marg, Evelyn, Dorothy, Brittani, Phil.  Bottom row:  Roy, Elaine, Linda, Carol, Heather, Theresa, Lloyd.

Here's another photo of us just before the Relay kicked off at 7:00 in the evening on June 14, 2013.  The banner that we were carrying was designed by Janice, who was the manager of the produce department up until a few months ago.  Looks great, doesn't it?  Now, I suppose that you're wondering what the number 75 means.  The answer can be found in the next photo...

This year's theme for the Relay for Life was all about the number seventy-five, as the Canadian Cancer Society celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2013.  Therefore, the various campsites that decorated their spots received bonus points for including the number 75 within our decorations.  We added the 75 into our banner, and our archway, which you can see in full in the next picture.

This is the site that we were given to use for this year's Relay for Life.  It was in a really decent spot this year, though admittedly we were a little bit too far away from the stage.  But that was fine by me, as I don't like music when it's too loud.  We chose blue and yellow as our two predominant colours to match the Relay for Life logo, although we as a team chose to wear lavender coloured T-shirts because the colour lavender is used to represent the fight against all cancers.

Many of the people who decided to enter the Relay for Life did so for a variety of reasons.  Many people who walked in the Relay are people who have either beaten cancer, or who are currently waging war against the disease.  For those people who stared cancer in the face and lived to tell the tale, they were given yellow T-shirts and participated in the Survivor Walk, which was easily the most heartfelt and emotional moment in the whole event.  I even found myself getting a little misty-eyed as the walk progressed, just to see just how young some of these cancer survivors were.  To see them go through something like that certainly puts things into perspective for sure.

The 2013 Relay for Life brought forth a record number of survivors participating in the Survivor Walk...over one hundred people registered!  And, on our own Walmart Cancer Kickers team, we were lucky enough to have four representing our store!  Dorothy, Roy, Elaine, and Evelyn certainly showed their strength and their passion for this event just by making an appearance in the Survivor Walk, and I absolutely salute them.  All four of these people are survivors, and that was why they Relay every year.  But every single person on our team participated for their own various reasons.  Allow me to share with you the reason why I took part.

Above are a pair of luminaries that I purchased at the event in memory of a couple of very special people.  The first luminary bag that you see is in memory of my co-worker Alex, who passed away from cancer on September 19, 2012 at the age of seventy.  He was a man who really helped me come out of my shell, and I will forever be in his debt for helping me look at myself through more adult eyes.  I still miss him every day.  The second bag (which is lit up) is in memory of my grandfather, who died of lung cancer on July 14, 2000 at the age of eighty-four.  Though my grandfather lived to be above average age, his last year of life was filled with so much pain.  It was tough to see him go through that.  My only regret in regards to the luminaries was that I didn't have enough to purchase one for everyone that I lost because of cancer.  I really wanted to buy a luminary for my friend "Pierette" who passed away a year and a half ago, and I really wanted to buy one for Pia, Mary Lou, and "Stew", all former co-workers who lost their fight against cancer over the last five years.  But, believe me, the thoughts of them were never far from my mind as I accumulated more laps around the track.

Speaking of laps, I thought that I would bring up this photo.  Next to my cute looking M&M's wristwatch is a purple ribbon that I purchased for two dollars (with all the money going to fight cancer).  Each time we did a complete circuit around the track, we would grab a bead to string through the ribbon.  Would you like to know how many I ended up with?  The answer a little bit later...

I'm posting this picture of Dorothy and Paul here for a reason.  You see, last year, Paul's wife Penny was a participant in the 2012 Relay for Life Survivor Walk, and Penny was still very weak from cancer treatments, so Dorothy supported her as she made her way the entire distance.  Sadly, Penny lost her battle with cancer just a few months ago, and the loss was very hard for Paul and his son, Jay.  So, Dorothy and the rest of the Cancer Kickers put our heads together and came up with a lovely tribute for Penny...

...a plaque that we presented to both Paul and Jay in honour of Penny.  You could just see the love and joy beaming from both of their faces, and I'm sure that they both made Penny proud.  It was a wonderful moment in honour of a wonderful woman.  I just wish that I could have gotten the opportunity to meet her, because she sounded like a lovely lady.

As the Relay went underway, what I found interesting was just how much effort other teams put in to their camps.  The picture up above is the team known as "Princess Lillian", and theirs was one hundred per cent interactive.  Walkers could play a beanbag toss, or pop a balloon to win a prize.  They even had a raffle going on, where a big prize was handed out at the end of the event!  I have to give them props for creativity!

As day turned into night, and the temperature dipped down into the single digits (Celsius), the Relay for Life planned a lot of events that would guarantee that the majority of people would stay up all night long.  One of the events was a Halloween trick-or-treating lap, in which we would dress up in costume and get candy from other people.  From left, Heather, Roxanne, Linda, Dorothy, Carol, and Marg got into the Halloween spirit four months early!

As well, there was a talent competition in which Relayers could show off their talents to the sleep-deprived crowd!  I really wish I had the video to show you, but I don't know how to post it in this blog...but Roxanne and Albert from our team did a ventriloquist act...complete with a little Gangnam Style thrown in for good measure!

And, here is a shot of me taken during the Relay for Life talent show at approximately two in the morning!  You can tell by the goofy grin on my face and the amount of beads I'm wearing that I was starting to tire out (and possibly that I was on a major sugar high from eating approximately a dozen and a half chocolate chip cookies that my mom baked for our team to snack on during the event).  But, I still managed to last the whole event with a smile on my face!  And, the glowsticks?  Well, let's just say that our trick-or-treaters were kind enough to share their loot with us.  I snatched a couple of Mars bars and a pair of yellow and pink glowsticks to wear around the track all night long!  

So, here we's six in the morning, and this is my necklace.  I ended up getting two more beads added on top of that string after this picture was snapped (the glowstick holding the string together), but if you count each bead, you'll see that there are 32.  Add in the two extra beads, and you have 34 laps around the track!  My goal was to get at least one bead for every year that I have been alive, and I surpassed that goal by two!  Oh, and each lap around the track?  I've been told that the track was one quarter of a mile.  So, 1/4 of a mile times thirty-four laps equals EIGHT AND A HALF MILES!!!  No wonder I developed blisters on my heels!

So, how did we end up faring?

All 40 teams that participated in the Relay for Life did a phenomenal job, and the grand total for all teams that raised money was a staggering $132,205.91!  And, that was the figure at 6:45am on June 15, 2013!  I imagine the total has now climbed even higher in the five days since the Relay for Life!  Congratulations to all teams for supporting the Relay, and a very special thank you to our own Cancer Kickers, who raised well over six thousand dollars alone!  I am so proud of all of us!

All in all, I am really happy that I took part in the 2013 Relay for Life.  Although I was exhausted at the end of the journey, every step that I took that night was well worth it.  I met some fascinating people who I never would have met before, I listened to some live entertainment, I had fun spending time with my Walmart family getting to know them better, and most importantly, I was one of the many people who showed up at the event to send a message.  That with perseverance, attitude, persistence, and strength, that one day, cancer will only be found in the horoscope section.  One day, a cure for cancer will be found.  We just have to continue to hold on to hope.

(Or at least in my case, I can continue to try and get a decent picture of hope.  This effort took me several attempts to snap, and this was the best shot of "HOPE" that I could get.  Kind of symbolic, no?)

And, that is my scrapbook for the Relay for Life 2013.  I hope you all enjoyed it, and I hope that my pictures have told the story in a way that helped you all feel like you were a part of the Relay as well. It really was an event that I was proud to be a part of, and I will most definitely find a way to make it back next year.  Though, I think that I will definitely buy a better pair of walking shoes (ones that don't give me blisters), and I don't think that I will be walking as many laps.  And, I think that next year, I might take part in more of the Relay events.  

And, to more video.