Sunday, May 17, 2009

Relay for Life Post-Ex

I am happy to report that the 2009 East Grand Rapids American Cancer Society Relay for Life is in the books and was an unqualified success. There were 36 teams (goal was 30) and over $58,000 was raised (goal was $45,000) and over 400 people participated. The work for the Relay began in December with the first planning committee meeting. We met once a month until this month, when we met twice to put the finishing touches on the plans to make the Relay a success.

I took a day of vacation on Friday to help put the Relay together and I will have to tell you, I never worked so hard on a day of vacation in my life! I met up with the other committee members at 9AM and we went right to work to set up the tents for the Relay. We rented tents and a stage for the major activities, while individual teams were responsible for their own tents. The first team tent went up a little before noon, and little by little, the other 35 teams pitched their tents on the infield of the track. The Relay began at 3PM and before long there were literally dozens of people doing laps to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

As the day turned into night, the Relay got a bit more festive. Bands played, dance ensembles performed, and basically, people had a good time. As dusk approached, their was a somber and reflective event known as the Luminaria Ceremony. In this ceremony, luminaria bags are placed along the track and each candle is lit. The bags represent a life cut short by cancer. All the participants gathered and a few words were spoken about the significance of the Luminaria Ceremony. Then a single, silent lap was walked by everyone present. The bags were adored with words like, "We miss you Mom" or "In memory of Grandpa Jones." There were well over 100 luminaria bags lining the track. It was a thoughtful and moving experience.

Night fell, and by about 10:30PM I was ready to call it a night. I was a de facto member of "Connie's Crew," but my main responsibility was the logistics planning and execution for the event. Most teams had members who spent the night there, walking and sleeping in shifts throughout the night. Since my idea of camping is staying at a Holiday Inn, I left for my Stearns & Foster bed about 10:45PM and enjoyed a restful night. I returned the next morning at 7AM and went right back to work, hauling away the trash and assisting in any way that I could in support of the Relay.

The weather turned a little nasty as the morning developed. There was a little rain and lots of wind. So much wind that a few of the team tents and one of the activities tents were blown over. An executive decision was made to end the Relay at noon. Following the closing ceremony, we started to tear down and pack away our gear and by 1:30PM, the East Grand Rapids High School Track looked better than when we arrived the day before. At the end of the day I was tired, sore and dirty, but I was very happy to have supported this event.


Deirdre said...

Great pictures too!

Lisa said...

Way to go, West Michigan, for coming out to support a great cause!! Thanks for being involved, Commander.