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Cancer survivors and caregivers walk the first lap.

12-hour cancer benefit walks away with a jackpot

By Kris DiLorenzo

The all-night Relay for Life of the Quad Villages, which began at 6 p.m. last Friday, May 20, at Mercy College, has raised $18,181.92 so far for the American Cancer Society (ACS). The event was organized by a committee chaired by Irvington resident Linda Whitehead, who is the village attorney for Hastings and serves on the advisory board of the ACS Westchester & Rockland Counties.

The relay follows in the footsteps of Dr. Gordy Klatt, who in May 1985 walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash., to raise money to fight cancer. Klatt’s effort brought in $27,000, and by the next year 340 participants walked in an overnight event.

The Relay for Life concept has caught on, with 20 countries participating, and so far has raised close to $5 billion to fight cancer.

This year’s Rivertowns event, which attracted about 150 participants, was held on the turf field at Mercy, which is normally used for baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey games. The field was marked off in a concentric pattern outlined by luminaria — white bags holding glow sticks later lit in memory of those who didn’t survive.

Participants formed their walking teams — 19 in all — in advance.

Ardsley High School had a strong presence, in large part through the efforts of sophomore Kate Lantier, who waged a social media campaign to raise donations and recruit enough people to comprise three teams. Kate’s “Team Thom,” named for her uncle Thomas Lainis, who succumbed to stomach cancer on Feb. 16 at age 66, had 13 members and raised $3,593.

“They’re working in shifts,” Lantier explained about her team. “Most of them are staying until midnight, then some are going home. The rest are going to stay to keep each other company. The ACS really lays out the plan for them.”

The plan asks each team to always have at least one member walking at all times. Cancer survivors and caregivers walk the first lap, the “Survivors Lap,” marking their victory over cancer. They are then joined by family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others.

Another high school team, the Ardsley Top Squad, had 10 members. Before the relay started, the Top Squad had raised $255 and was raising more by selling glow sticks. Ninth-graders Chenoa Cioffi and Zairana Nabi spoke to the Enterprise about their involvement. “At a camp that I go to, I saw people with the T-shirts [with the Relay for Life logo] on,” Nabi explained. “A lot of people in the camp did it, and I really wanted to do it. When one of my friends was young, she had cancer, and someone in our school had ovarian cancer.” Both girls survived.

“We were learning about diseases in bio class this year,”’ Cioffi said, “and it was like, 'Wow, we need to raise awareness, because we don’t have a cure right now, and we need to find one.' A bunch of our friends wanted to do this with us because it’s a good event and it’s fun. Some of us have personal connections.” She also knew the Ardsley student who had ovarian cancer. “Because she had it, it raised our awareness that it could happen to anybody, and we wanted to fight against it.” 

Three Mercy College roommates who were members of the organizing committee, along with Sarah Fant, were among the die-hards who stayed awake until 6 a.m. on Saturday. Sofia Barba, who is majoring in communication disorders, said that she, Ana Gomes, and Emily Breed became involved because they saw a flier about the event and decided it would be fun. “I thought it was for a great cause. We raised about $800.”

Since the event is for the whole family, the atmosphere was festive — despite the seriousness of the cause. The AHS Select Chorus performed, a deejay played music, and games and other activities, including a scavenger hunt, kept the energy level up.

Raffles were in abundance. “We have received tremendous support from neighborhood restaurants and shops in Dobbs Ferry,” Mercy's Director of Student Life, Ruben Henao, said. "There are restaurants who are ‘Mercy College Mavericks Friendly Businesses’ who donated gift cards." Barba estimated that there were 22 prizes from all four Rivertowns, and declared which she thought were the best: “Because the prom is coming up in June, the best prizes were a $250 makeover by a professional makeup artist, a $100 hair salon gift certificate, and a free manicure and pedicure.”

Representing Rotarians in several villages, the Rotary Rascals were captained by Tarrytown resident Tim Allport, an ACS volunteer who formerly taught management and statistics in the Business Administration Department at Mercy College. Allport has had seven friends die of cancer; he also mentioned former Irvington Library Director Pamela Strachan, who died of cancer this past February. “I’ve done three events, but this is the first time I’ve had my own team,” he said. The Rascals raised $5,878.

Other teams included the Italian Club of Ardsley High School, the Irvington School District, several “Purple” teams — the Purple Cheetahs, Purple Kancer Killers, and Purple Ninjas — and the inimitably named “Squirrel Monkeys Who Like Bananas on Fire, Dude!”

Whitehead, who has been an ACS volunteer for 15 years and captained the team Linda’s Warriors, had personal reasons for participating in the relay. “My father and mother-in-law were survivors,” she explained. “A close friend had stomach cancer and died a year ago; three months later the friend’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a month later. Cancer is a disease that touches everybody at some point.”

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the Rivertowns Enterprise. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.


May 27, 2016

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