The 2016 Pontiac Relay for Life was held this past Saturday night at the fairgrounds in Shawville, and I was pleased to take part once again, walking with my Slipper Sisters. Last year, I had to take a hiatus, as my cousin Kayla's wedding was the same day - and I am not a powerhouse trooper like my friend Brenda, who is somehow able to go all day, then go all night (and then continue going all day the next day!!) But I was happy to be able to return this year, and walk all night alongside many others. We each walk for different reasons, in memory or in honour of different people, but all with the same goal: we walk in hopes that one day, a cure for cancer will be found, and we won't have to walk anymore.
I admit, it took me a while to get psyched up for Relay this year. I had committed to the Relay team before I found out the Canada Day Committee's annual golf tournament and steak dinner was the same day, and then I was torn. I have stepped down from the Canada Day Committee, but I still really wanted to support the cause, as the legendary Canada Day celebrations in our little town are very near and dear to my heart. I knew I couldn't golf and party all day, then walk all night - like I said, I'm not Brenda! I'd literally turn into a zombie!! Both are important causes to me, so I struggled with what to do.
In the end, I chose Relay, and opted to swing by the golf course during the day to drop off a donation from my mom and I. Otherwise, I spent Saturday resting and relaxing, doing odd little jobs around the house in the morning, and attempting to nap in the afternoon. Despite a miscommunication about what time we were leaving, Lolly, Sharon, and I managed to get ourselves collected and out the door in good time and headed up to Shawville to settle in to our camp site, grab a bite to eat at the Lions Club BBQ on the grounds, and get ourselves geared up to walk!
It was a ridiculously warm evening - the warmest Relay I've ever been part of, with the night time temperature not going much lower than 18 degrees. I didn't look for a sweater until long after midnight, never changed out of my capris, and didn't find myself dying for the soup at midnight or a cup of coffee to warm myself up. It was a fairly easy night to walk through, only one small shower of rain, and the lightening and rumbling thunder that rolled around at times never came near us (thank God - I don't do thunderstorms!!). Seriously, the biggest battle of the night was with the june bugs, which seemed to come out in droves for the event!
As you probably all know, I started taking part in Relay for Life after my dad passed away following a brief but hard-fought battle with cancer in February 2012. With the exception of last year, I have walked that track countless times over the past four years, sometimes surrounded by friends, sometimes alone; sometimes laughing til my sides hurt, sometimes with silent tears in my eyes. Sometimes I've walked fast, marching along with determined purpose in my heart. Sometimes I've hobbled like an little old lady. Sometimes I've danced. Once during the night, I've even run. Sometimes in dusk, sometimes in the early light of dawn, sometimes lit only by the luminaries along the track in memory or in honour of our loved ones.
But with each step, no matter what the mood or temperature or time of night, I've thought of him.
This year, cancer seems to have touched my family and friends even more than any year before. This year, I wasn't just thinking of Dad. I was thinking of friends who are facing, or have faced, the horror of cancer in their lives; of a cousin who passed just days before; of uncles who are currently battling. I walked holding too many people in my heart this year.
The Slipper Sisters were a small but mighty team this year. We consisted of only 6 members - our captain Lolly, Sharon and I; event organizer Jaime and one of her volunteers Kim, who were busy most of the night keeping the show rolling; and Brenda, who, as I mentioned, had been working at the golf tournament and steak supper all day and well into the night. She joined us in the wee hours of the morning to finish it off with us. And yet, despite being one of the smallest teams present, we managed to achieve "Silver" status with our fundraising, reaching over $6,000 raised for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Jaime and her team of volunteers deserve all the accolades, cheers and rounds of applause they get. This is no small event - it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and efficiency to pull it off each year, and I am seriously amazed at how smoothly everything goes (and how calm Jaime stays!) Congratulations once again to ALL of them for their tireless efforts in the days leading up to Relay for Life, and during that long and sometimes seemingly endless night. And this year, when the final tally came in, they had raised over $120,000. Simply amazing!!!
I know I've said thank you to those who support us countless times over the past days and weeks, but I need to give them all one more big shout-out. On a personal level, I was able to raise over $900 myself, and that is 100% thanks to the amazingly supportive family and friends I have surrounding me. I know it's cheesey, but they truly are "the wind beneath my wings" as I circle that track.
And of course, thanks to my teammates for hanging in there with me during the night. It's not always easy to stay friends when exhaustion creeps in, and I'm known to get a little nasty and short in the grain when I get tired. So I appreciate their patience and I'm thankful that, no matter what, we'll be "#stillfriends" when the sun comes up the next day.
Relay for Life 2016 is the books. Another night filled with memories: some poignant, some special, some hilarious, some not so fond, some sad.
And with that, one more little prayer that a day will come when we will not have to walk any more.