“Each one of us has a story”

Cancer survivors, families find community of support at Relay for Life

Stephen Finn

The Sun

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Cinnaminson residents got in their step counts for a good cause on Saturday, Sept. 29, during their second Relay for Life at the Cinnaminson High School track. Beginning with an opening ceremony at noon, the event ran non-stop for the next 10 hours.

Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Volunteers like Cinnaminson resident and committee chair for the event Tami Bobrin worked together to bring the relay to their town. Last year, given a late notice, they had only 100 days to pull off the event. Despite the rush, Cinnaminson’s first relay was a success and raised more than $35,000.

This time around, Bobrin knew they were in for another successful event before the day even started.

“Usually event day is the big day, but we’re already above our previous total. Everything now is extra,” said Bobrin of their fundraising efforts leading up to the relay. By the end of the day they had raised over $51,000.

At no point during the event was the track empty. At least one member from one of the 34 teams that participated was on the track at all times throughout the day. At Relay for Life events, this is done to signify that cancer never sleeps.

Each team set up tents around the track, some offering items for sale to raise extra money toward their team’s individual fundraising goal. Many came up with a theme for their group and arrived dressed in costumes or custom team T-shirts.

The overall theme for this year’s relay was “Wishing Upon a Cure.” Teams were encouraged to draw inspiration from Disney movies for their tents and attire. Themed laps throughout the day included Disney Princes and Princesses, Star Wars, Everyday Heroes, Disney Heroes and Villains, and Disney Ears.

During the opening ceremony, state Sen. Troy Singleton addressed the crowd, starting with how cancer had affected his life.

“Each of us has a story and a connection,” said Singleton. “My story began three years ago when my first role model, the greatest hero of my life lost his life to pancreatic cancer.”

He praised the spirit and commitment of people fighting to make sure we live in a world where “cancer is merely a zodiac sign in our life and nothing else.”

A team calling itself the Cinnaminson City Pirates in honor of the school’s mascot was among the many attendees who had been affected by cancer. Laura Fitzwater came with her husband George.

“Cancer has touched each and every one of us in one way or another. We’re just going to do laps and hope and pray that people get better and they find a cure,” said Laura.

The survivor and caregiver walk was a memorable event during the day when the track was cleared for caregivers and those who have either survived cancer or are currently fighting the disease. They marched to the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Fight Song” while everyone on the sidelines cheered them on as they passed.

Later in the day after the sun went down, Luminarias were lit in remembrance of those we have lost and to celebrate survivors. During a relay event, darkness symbolizes the fear cancer patients feel. The lights are there to remind them they are not alone.

This portion of the evening was introduced by breast cancer survivor Felicia Hopsin, who shared the story of her fight. Up until Saturday’s relay, Hopsin avoided events like this because she had a hard time coming to terms with the disease that also took her mother.

“I kept fighting with myself, it was an emotional battle,” said Hopsin.

Something was holding her back until this event. When she thought about what was different this time around, it started to make sense to her.

“I felt like I was finally ready to accept that we did everything for my mom,” said Hopsin.

All of the Luminarias lit that night represented stories just like Hopsin’s. Reminders that no one struggling with cancer is alone and that there is a community of support like the one on display that night at Cinnaminson’s Relay for Life.

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