Latrobe's Relay for Life walks against cancer
Relay for Life is celebrating 20 years in Latrobe this weekend, but the 24-hour event is never far from the minds of those who are passionate about it.
“We have to do it year-round,” said Latrobe Relay for Life co-chairwoman Aliana Boehme of Derry Township. “Cancer doesn't quit, so neither do we.”
At least 50 teams composed of 649 participants will take part in the walk, which is free and open to the public, from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday at Latrobe Memorial Stadium.
That number does not include the many volunteers who will help run special laps around the track throughout the event, which also features activities, refreshments and informational booths.
The 20th anniversary celebration will take place at midnight Saturday.
Boehme said she is glad people from Latrobe and the surrounding area have come together for the annual event for so long and have bolstered cancer awareness locally during the hours of walking when at least one team member must remain on the track.
“It's in memory of the people who are taken and in honor of the ones who are fighting,” she said.
This year the local event that benefits the American Cancer Society hopes to raise $238,000 with $127,000 raised as of May 31.
Boehme is particularly looking forward to seeing her 15-year-old daughter Sadie donate 10 inches of her hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which makes the hair into wigs for cancer patients.
Her daughter and other participants will be given haircuts during the relay at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“(Sadie) probably has enough hair on her head to make her own wig,” Boehme joked, proud that her daughter is the youngest committee member. “It's not something she has to do; she wants to do this.”
Regan Chemski, team captain for Building Bodeez Fitness Center, said in the Derry Township gym's fifth year of participation, she looks forward to the survivor lap at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Each of the nearly 300 cancer survivors at the relay is given a paper chain link for every year they have fought cancer, she said.
“Some are holding one link; some have 20 links wrapped around their bodies,” Chemski said.
Gina Campbell, captain of her family's 30-member Team Rosatti, said she is also heartened to see all the survivors walk the track lined with cheering supporters.
Her father, Dennis Rosatti Sr., and brother Bryan Rosatti are both Hodgkin's lymphoma survivors.
“You see how many people it's affected, but how many are fighting back as well,” said Campbell of Hempfield, who has participated in Relay for Life for more than 10 years and has been involved with the team for three.
Chemski said the survivor lap is followed by the luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m., which is particularly moving.
“It's just incredible to see the night lit up with all the luminaria,” she said.
The 50-person Building Bodeez team strives each year to increase its fundraising goal, she said. This year the team hit the $10,000 mark on the way to a $15,000 goal.
Campbell's family held a benefit bingo in early May at the West Point Volunteer Fire Department that raised $11,000, far exceeding the team's original $7,500 benchmark, and hopes to reach the $15,000 mark before Saturday.
“We totally crushed that in one day,” she said. “We're very blessed and so excited the community turned out the way it has.”
Chemski said Building Bodeez will lead a Zumba lesson on the track at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We are very committed to wellness in all forms,” said Chemski, director of community initiatives at the gym. “Physical wellness, but also being involved in the community ... cancer's touched everyone.”
Boehme's family is no exception. She lost her grandmother Betty Caldwell, who died in 1997 at 67 after fighting cancer for 19 years. Her aunt Lisa Caldwell was 38 when she passed away in 1995.
Another aunt, Amy Lope, passed away in 2003 after fighting the disease from 19 to 48.
“I do it for the three of them,” she said holding back tears. “We're all there for the same reason, but everyone has a different story.”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.