Every year on the first weekend of June, the football stadium at Clinton High School is illuminated with candles of hope as part of the yearly Relay for Life celebration. This year promises to be no different.
The annual event is scheduled for Friday, with gates opening at 4 p.m. and activities scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
“Relay for Life is a great event that raises money for cancer research with a goal of beating cancer,” Carmine Colantuono, one of the event’s coordinators, said. “It’s also a great time to fellowship and strengthen the community and get people who have survived and beaten the disease together.”
Last year, the event that brought in a crowd of more than 2,000 people raised just shy of $120,000 to be used towards cancer research. According to Colantuono, this year’s goal is to meet and exceed last year’s amount. To date, more than $40,000 has been raised.
“Last year we raised nearly $120,000 over the 2015 season and we look to surpass that this year,” he pointed out.
This year’s theme is Kicking Cancer — a task Colantuono says Relay for Life is all about.
“Relay for Life is about giving hope to those who may feel like they don’t have any,” Colantuono remarked. “We can gather on this special night and give inspiration to those who are just being diagnosed or have been a survivor for many years.”
Many understand Colantuono’s remarks, especially those at Burney’s Sweets in Clinton.
When patrons visit the downtown Clinton eatery, they can find a jar sitting on the counter that was put there to collect and raise money to go towards Relay for Life. For owners Cindi Norris and Denise Scronce, that jar and what it stands for means a lot.
Both Norris and Scronce, who are sisters, have been through the diagnosis of cancer, along with their sister Dawn Cannady. Norris was diagnosed 20 years ago, Cannady in 2005 and Scronce just this year.
“Relay for Life will always be the most awesome event that you can contribute to,” Norris attested. “It is near and dear to our hearts.”
Since Norris was diagnosed 20 years ago, she said so much has changed, and it’s because of the money Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society have been able to contribute towards research that it is so.
“There is so much that I went through then that Denise isn’t going through now,” Norris stated. “Our family will always participate in Relay for Life. Hopefully, with each year, they are one step closer to a cure.”
To kick off Friday night’s events, the iconic torch will make its way from Clinton Family Worship Center down West Elizabeth Street at 5 p.m. and enter Dark Horse Stadium. According to Colantuono, the first lap of Friday night will be for all those who have survived or are battling cancer now. The second lap will bring those who have served as caregivers over the years to the track and then all laps following are for everyone.
“There will be a survivors’ walk, a caregivers walk, a youth walk, and then the track will be used by walkers of all ages as we fight this terrible disease with our fund-raising efforts,” Colantuono shared.
Just as dark falls across the stadium, the luminaries and lanterns will be lighted — with each flame symbolizing the hope each survivor and cancer patient should have. Last year, more than 1,000 luminaries and 75 lanterns filled the stadium.
“The largest hope is the community coming out so that they can let the people know there is hope,” Colantuono said. “We want the survivors to know they are loved and be there as a community to support them.”
Colantuono and the Relay for Life committee say there are about 25 teams that are registered to have some type of booth set up during Friday night’s event. There are more teams registered and teams can continue to register through the event.
In addition to the survivors’ walk Friday night, there are other events scheduled to take place. Various events will continue through the night, with the closing ceremony at 11 p.m.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.