‘A fight we need to finish’

Relay For Life of Camden County set for June 10 at Veterans Memorial Park

At some point this year, life will be forever changed for nearly 1.7 million people in the United States. That’s because, according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2017.

It’s a staggering statistic, but one that hits home for Barbara Hanson. A cancer survivor herself, Hanson lost her sister Mary, neighbor Joan and cousin Rita all to the disease in 2013.

“This is a fight we need to finish,” Hanson said, “and together we can make a difference.”

For six years, Hanson has taken part in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, the organization’s signature fundraiser that brings together more than 5,200 communities in 27 countries. The team-oriented fundraiser is centered around a six- to 24-hour walking event, with at least one team member always walking a designated path to symbolize that cancer never sleeps.

Relay begins with an opening ceremony, followed by a survivor ceremony, recognizing survivors as they make their way around the track. While the day is a celebration filled with music, activities, games, theme laps and more, it also remembers those lost to cancer and honors those still fighting with a Luminaria Ceremony at dusk. During the ceremony, bags decorated in honor of loved ones light up the pathway.

This year, Hanson is serving as the volunteer event lead for the Relay For Life of Camden County, which will run from noon on Saturday, June 10, until midnight at Veterans Memorial Park, 1261 Chews Landing Road, Gloucester Township.

“Relay is a very moving and emotional experience,” Hanson said. “It gives you the opportunity to celebrate life with those who have battled this disease, to remember those we loved and lost too soon, and to fight alongside those who are currently battling cancer.”

She said it’s an opportunity to become part of something great.

“You catch the spirit and momentum and you take it with you. It inspires you,” Hanson said, “and you leave wanting more.”

Gloucester Township Council Vice President Tracey Trotto started Relay For Life of Camden County — which until this year was known as Relay For Life of Gloucester Township — eight years ago. Trotto was a participant in Relay For Life of Medford for many years, and when the American Cancer Society staff realized she lived in Gloucester Township, they asked if she would be interested in starting an event in her hometown.

“I’m still involved because I have lost too many family and friends to this awful disease,” Trotto said. “I want to see an end to cancer, and I believe in the work the American Cancer Society is doing to help combat the disease.”

She hopes rebranding as the Relay For Life of Camden County will unify more people.

“We have the opportunity to bring many communities together to work as one to fight back against cancer,” Trotto said.

Hanson agreed, noting the rebranding opens up enormous potential for the American Cancer Society.

“It gives us a tremendous opportunity to grow the event,” Hanson said, “and I’m looking forward to getting more Camden County businesses, community organizations and residents to join the fight.”

American Cancer Society Community Manager Alex Basseches expects the Relay For Life of Camden County to reach and perhaps even exceed its $60,000 goal. Basseches explained that, while a lot of the money goes toward research and finding a cancer cure, it also supports patients and caregiver programming. This includes everything from American Cancer Society Hope Lodges, which give cancer patients and families a free place to stay while receiving treatment, to the society’s Look Good Feel Better program, which provides free seminars, wigs and more for cancer patients.

“Relay is a celebration. It’s support,” Basseches said, “and it’s fundraising for lifesaving research and all the different patient programs that we offer.”