July 2017

Tears and Joy at Big Relay

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In the opening ceremony of this year’s Relay For Life, Kayleigh Thornkill, age 10, speaks fluently about how she helped during her mother’s two-year survivorship journey through cancer treatment.

Photo by Lester Smith

In the opening ceremony of this year’s Relay For Life, Kayleigh Thornkill, age 10, speaks fluently about how she helped during her mother’s two-year survivorship journey through cancer treatment.

With the threatened rain only a few sprinkles, the crowd of supporters gathered at the Suffield Middle School track on Saturday morning, June 3 to help fund the American Cancer Society’s fight for a world without cancer. Each of the forty teams, from eight towns, was to fulfill the relay promise by having at least one walker (or sometimes a runner) on the track during the event, all day.

This 19th Annual Relay For Life of North Central Connecticut, like its predecessors, was done with flair, from the opening at 10 a.m. to the evening luminaria event, the glow lap, and the close at midnight. During the day there were raffle prizes, a sports lap, Zumba, music from the New Earth Band, songs by Suffield’s Shannon Frechette, and other special features. Many campsites were set up around the track with coolers, chairs, bunks, and other amenities. (The Granby Guardians team, one of the larger teams and evidently lavish with their comfort, reserved three adjacent campsites!)

In the opening ceremony, the Wells Road chorus of the Granby middle school delivered a sweetly harmonized rendition of the National Anthem, ten-year-old Kayleigh Thornkill from Enfield explained about her role as a caregiver during the cancer of her mother, a two-year survivor, and Dr. Jay Burton, an Enfield internist, spoke seriously about his own experience with leukemia, offering a helpful focus on survivorship: “Find what you can control, and move on!”

Event Manager Heidi MacDonald thanked all the teams and the many sponsors. She reported happily that $104,000 had been collected already this year, and she expected to meet the $110,000 goal by the fundraising year’s end in August.

Four survivors and caregivers carry the big banner in the first lap of this year’s Relay for Life. From the left: First selectman Melissa and Elizabeth Mack, Kelly and Dr. Carolyn Ray. When survivor Kelly Ray spoke after the noontime survivor’s lunch, she had changed to shorts, exposing her above-the-knee prosthetic left leg – the result of her osteosarcoma.

Photo by Lester Smith

Four survivors and caregivers carry the big banner in the first lap of this year’s Relay for Life. From the left: First selectman Melissa and Elizabeth Mack, Kelly and Dr. Carolyn Ray. When survivor Kelly Ray spoke after the noontime survivor’s lunch, she had changed to shorts, exposing her above-the-knee prosthetic left leg – the result of her osteosarcoma.

The first lap was the Survivors Lap, led by the Suffield High School marching band, which played through a second lap as well. Following the band, a giant Celebrating Life banner was carried by several survivors and caregivers, including First Selectman Melissa Mack and her daughter Elizabeth, who was afflicted at age two by a brain tumor.

Colorful T-shirts identified many team members, most notably the bright yellow multitude from Jane’s Team. One of the blue-shirt groups was called Kyla Strong, which brought emotional reactions from many who had the privilege of knowing Kyla Pokorny of Enfield. Her extraordinarily compassionate life ended at age 20 in April, when she succombed to a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. Even in the hospital, her thoughts and efforts were only to comfort other patients. (This reporter cherishes the memory of his interview with Kyla at a fund-raising walk held last August in Suffield.)


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