Relay for Life: Fighting Cancer One Lap at a Time

Image 2 courtesy of dailyrecord.com

Image 2 courtesy of dailyrecord.com

Ana Clara Monaco, S&G Editor

As a community of students and staff united in the quest for education, Mendham High School has established numerous traditions reaching beyond the scope of school days and events confined to the classroom. The 13-hour Relay for Life, the most prominent and acclaimed of which, was established informally in 1985 as a global fundraising phenomenon through the determination of Dr. Gordon Klatt. Spending 24 hours walking and running around the Baker Stadium track, Klatt earned the attention, admiration, and donations of onlookers who supported him and pledged $27,000 to the nation’s largest health concern and Klatt’s own diagnosis: cancer.

As a yearly global ceremony of 35 years, Relay for Life has been incorporated into nationwide school calendars on a smaller scale as the student body participates in a night of walking around the school track and fundraisers preceding the event. With the goal of raising $70,000 for the funding of wigs for cancer patients, transportation to and from doctors appointments, medicine, and treatment research, Mendham students establish themselves as captain or participant in self-picked teams ranging from the Holy Walkamolies to the Power Puff Girls, contributing time and money make the event a success in celebration of survivors and caregivers and remembrance of those passed. Chris Falzarano, captain of the Biambi team and working tirelessly to “attract as many people as possible to… the cause”, expresses his love for the event: “[it] can be one of the most beneficial experiences at the high school”. His passion for his team is evident as he continuously proclaims that “you will want to be on Team Biami if you want to win”; his team alone has raised nearly $3,000. The event is not known for its competition, yet the fundraising efforts of each individual team are updated on the website leaderboard, maintaining a sense of friendly rivalry that drives members to donate and boost their team’s position. 

[it] can be one of the most beneficial experiences at the high school”

— Chris Falzarano

The longevity and success of the event must be completely attributed to the students and staff who devote themselves to the cause: members of the Committee, student leaders, and the active involvement of teachers. In an interview with Ms. Pereira, English teacher and event advisor, she stressed the inclusivity and flexibility of Relay for Life: it’s a healing ceremony for those that “have experience with cancer… [those that would] like to remember or honor someone who has passed of cancer, [and those who] just want to be a part of an experience much bigger than [themselves]”. The evening features a wide variety of events, including live music, Survivor/Caregiver Walk, and, Ms. Pereira’s personal favorite, the Luminaria: “a somber, healing ceremony that encourages reflection and stillness as we remember our loved ones”.

Image 1 courtesy of West Morris Relay for Life Facebook Page

Although the format of Relay remains the same- Opening Ceremonies, entertainment and games, laps around the track, and Closing Ceremonies- each event presents a different experience for onlookers and “[unites] Western Morris County (from Long Valley through the Chesters and Mendhams and the surrounding areas) in the fight against cancer”.