For more than 36 years, communities worldwide have joined together to honor and remember loved ones affected by cancer, fighting toward a cure. The 2023 American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life Peninsula will take place on May 6 at Todd Stadium.
“Last year, our event raised $30,000 over goal,” says Tye Lambert, senior development manager for this and other ACS events.
Relay For Life Peninsula is led by Hampton Roads volunteers with a passion for ACS’s mission: Save Lives, Celebrate Lives and Lead the Fight for a World Without Cancer. Donations raised by this event help ACS fund cancer research, provide free information, support early detection and help prevent cancer. “Our volunteers are the direct reason for the success of our event,” Lambert says.
Community members take turns walking around the track lined with luminaria bags. During the first lap, participants cheer for local survivors or participate as a survivor. Caregivers of cancer patients are then invited to join survivors on the second lap to be cheered on as well. Relay participants are encouraged to invite friends and family currently living with cancer or survivors to attend and join the celebration.
As the sun sets, everyone lights the luminaria bags surrounding the track for a ceremony to remember those who lost their fight to cancer and to reflect on the journey of those who survived.
This year’s event is presented by Newport News Shipbuilding/Huntington Ingalls Industries (NNS/HII) and Bayport Credit Union and is led by a strong, integrated team. Co-event leaders include Wendy Brown, chief human resource officer for BayPort Credit Union; Janita Leach, co-event lead for Relay For Life Peninsula and the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Hampton Roads event; Kristin Young, a teacher at Denbigh High School and third supporting lead (tri-lead), to fund the mission and support co-leads; and Gary Fuller, vice president of NNS and the event’s executive sponsor.
“Being active in our communities is important to us, and so many of our shipbuilders are personally affected by cancer,” Fuller says. “We see Relay for Life as a natural extension of the HII values of safety, respect, engagement and responsibility.”
Event fundraising is overseen by Young, who also mentors other committees and is on the Event Leadership Team that works with volunteers, team captains and participants. “I lost both grandmothers to breast cancer,” says Young, who was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015 and has cancer on both sides of her family. “For me, it was a when-not-if for cancer and I don’t want my kids to get it.”
“Bayport is committed to the community,” Brown says of last year’s top relay participant’s dedication to Relay for Life. “We just have to find a cure and that’s why I relay.” One of Bayport’s fundraisers is Friday dress down days when employees can wear jeans. They are asked to donate $5 each Friday to their chosen charities.
“Bayport and NNS are heavily involved in the event’s leadership team,” Lambert says. “They have been our fearless leaders and presenting sponsors.”
Leach has volunteer-led Relay for Life Peninsula since 2016, starting on the Event Leadership Team with kids’ zone. “It was my responsibility to ensure kids had fun at the event,” she says. “They are impacted by cancer every day so it’s important for our relay to incorporate them too.” Many of Leach’s family members and friends are dealing with cancer. “I believe ACS has a heart and a mission to actually create this cure, for those who are no longer here and for those who are here to encourage them to keep fighting,” Leach says.
“Janita has helped mold us into one team fighting cancer,” Lambert says.
Official T-shirts are available to Hope Club members, who raise a minimum of $100. All registered cancer survivors will receive a free survivor T-shirt. Relay merchandise is also available for sale online, with proceeds from every purchase benefiting ACS.
The event will begin at 3 p.m. with the opening ceremony and musical entertainment. The luminaria ceremony takes place at 8 p.m., with the event ending at 9 p.m.
With more than 1.5 million volunteers nationwide, ACS attacks cancer through research, education, advocacy and family services.
TO THE POINT:
Relay for Life Peninsula
Address: American Cancer Society,
ATTN: Relay For Life Peninsula VA – FKYKER, PO Box 4110, Glen Allen, VA 23058
Contact: Tye Lambert
24/7 Cancer Helpline: 800-227-2345