More than 300 students at Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School in Newmarket took to the track for 12 hours yesterday for Relay for Life to raise money for cancer research.
The relay event went from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and at least one student from each team had to be on the track at all times. It was organized by a dedicated committee of teachers and students.
"Relay for Life offers us the chance to create hope for those living with the disease,” said one of the student committee members, Vishwajith.
"Whether it’s the diagnosis or death of a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend or teacher, we’re all here today because cancer has touched our lives in some way, shape or form,” said fellow committee member Mahad.
An important part of the day is the survivors ceremony during which cancer survivors are invited to come and do a lap of the track.
Angela Halfin is a cancer survivor and a former teacher at Denison. She spoke as part of the ceremony.
Halfin shared that she found a lump over March break in 2010 and was diagnosed with breast cancer. By Easter of that year, she had surgery, that summer she had chemotherapy, and that fall she had radiation.
Fortunately, she said, the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre at Southlake had just opened up. She said she isn't sure she would still be here without the care she received there.
"If it hadn’t been for that centre, maybe I wouldn’t be here. But my life also would be different if it weren’t for the Newmarket community, for the Denison community, for my family and my church, Trinity United,” she said.
While Halfin was going through treatments, her colleagues at Denison came together and gave her money that she used to buy a porch swing. She said on her difficult treatment days she would sit out there for fresh air and it made her feel better.
“I still have it and when I sit on that porch swing, I still feel the support and the gratitude for my friends here at Denison,” she said.
It was very meaningful to Halfin to be back at Denison and taking part in Relay for Life as a survivor. She thanked the students participating for all they were doing.
"This money that you are raising, it makes a difference,” she said. “I am very, very proud of you for what you are doing.”
There were various activities throughout the day, live entertainment, themed laps, and food to keep the students going. Toward the end of the event at 9:30 p.m. was another special part of Relay, the luminary ceremony.
This element honours those who lost their lives to cancer. White luminaries with tea lights inside are placed along the edge of the track to remember those individuals and the participants took a more solemn lap in their honour.
The fundraiser was a big success this year as Denison surpassed its $50,000 goal raising about $60,000. It was the ninth year the school has done Relay and in that time they have raised a total of more than $350,000.
Relay for Life takes place at hundreds of schools across Canada and the national goal this year is $6 million.