Saxonburg dropped from relay event

| Saturday, May 17, 2014, 1:56 a.m.

After four years, one Alle-Kiski community won't be holding its Relay For Life this year.

Relay for Life of Saxonburg has been canceled by the American Cancer Society because of a lack of participation.

“We were disappointed,” said Joyce Byers, former chairwoman of the event. “We can't get the people to participate.”

Relay for Life is a community fundraising event of the American Cancer Society in which teams walk around a track for up to 24 hours to raise money for cancer research and awareness.

Michelle Heil, senior manager for Relay For Life in the greater Pittsburgh area, blamed a lack of volunteers and participants for Saxonburg's cancellation.

“Relay for Life is such a volunteer-driven, commun-ity-run event,” Heil said. “It really does take volunteers to make it happen.”

Heil said in the event of a cancellation, community members are encouraged to participate in a neighboring Relay for Life.

In the Alle-Kiski Valley, the first of those other relays will begin May 31, with the Highlands and Riverview relays.

Highland's theme this year is “Score for a Cure” and will be held at Highlands High School.

“Teams are working on that and trying to come up with something clever that has to do with sports,” said JoAnne Monteleone, chairwoman of the Highlands Relay for Life.

Monteleone said the Highlands relay will have a dove release to remember those who lost their battles with cancer.

“This is the first time we've done it,” she said. “It's just a nice thing to watch and remember.”

Highlands has moved its relay to the high school from Golden Rams Stadium and reduced the walk to 14 hours as a result of a stadium overhaul.

The Riverview Relay for Life will be held at Riverview High School for 24 hours — but only registered team members will be allowed at the event overnight from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

This year's theme is “Finish the Fight by Fighting to the Finish.”

The relay will have special guest Darlene Miloser, a Fox Chapel resident who recently wrote a book about surviving breast cancer. She will be the speaker during a luminaria ceremony and will be selling copies of her book “Diary of a Breast Cancer Survivor.”

“She will be giving part of the proceeds to Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society,” said Barbara Kutilek, co-chair of the Riverview Relay For Life.

The Ford City Relay for Life will feature the theme “Around the World.”

Bill Davis, relay chairman, said this year they plan to have a dunk booth, games for kids, a golf ball drop and a butterfly release.

“There's something happening all day long and all night,” Davis said.

This is Davis' first year as relay director and he said although it's stressful, it's worth it. Davis got into the Relay for Life because he lost his mother-in-law and best friend to cancer.

“I got into relay seven years ago,” he said, “and every year I get a little deeper into it.”

Michelle Lydon, co-chair for the Apollo Relay for Life, has a similar reason for volunteering. Her 11-year-old niece died from cancer and was an active participant in the relay when she was being treated.

“She just believed that we were going to find a cure,” Lydon said.

The Relay for Life of Apollo's theme will be “Relay For Life: The Greatest Cause on Earth.”

“They're trying to make it like a circus event,” Lydon said.

Apollo's was the first Relay for Life in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Lydon said there will be new event this year.

A “one voice” ceremony will be held where each person at the relay will receive a different colored glow stick based on how long they've had cancer, on whether they are a survivor or if they are a caregiver.

Once everyone has a glow stick, they'll then take a silent lap together around the track to show how even though everyone is affected by cancer differently, they are all working toward the same goal.

The last Relay for Life of the season will be the Alle-Kiski Relay For Life at New Kensington's Memorial Park.

Chrissy Burkett, publicity chair for the event, said that this year's theme is Disney and the focus will be on the kids. She said in the past, the organizers and participants have found that children often have a lot of questions about cancer.

“We just have not had a resource for them,” Burkett said.

Part of the new events will be an information center where everyone, but especially children, will be able to go and get information about cancer.

All of the Relay for Life organizers agreed that the goal of the Relay for Life is to honor cancer survivors and remember those who have lost their fight with cancer.

“That's why we do this, is to celebrate the survivorship in the community,” Burkett said.

Emily Balser is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-7710 or

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