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Walkers do their part to support American Cancer Society efforts

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LOUISVILLE - The 17th annual Massena and Louisville Relay for Life had a different look when it kicked off at 6 p.m. Friday.

That’s because inclement weather forced it inside for the first time in its history.

Instead of walking around a field near the Louisville Community Center, teams set up and walked inside the arena.

But that was the only difference participants saw. The main goals remained intact - to remember those who had lost their lives to cancer, celebrate those who had beat the disease and raise money to support American Cancer Society research, education, advocacy and patient services.

Among their offerings locally are the “Look Good, Feel Good” program that can provide cancer survivors with wigs, make-up kits and other items, the Man-to-Man Prostate Support Group and another group dedicated to breast cancer survivors and those who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of all you here tonight. Every dollar that you raise really does make a difference in the fight again cancer,” American Cancer Society Community Executive Laura Gregory said, noting there were currently more than 200 cancer patients in St. Lawrence County alone.

Among them were Susan Gale and her mother, Barbara Cunningham, who were both diagnosed with cancer, but were among those who participated in a Survivor’s Lap around the arena floor.

“It’s real, cancer is real,” Ms. Gale said. “We appreciate you, we appreciate the American Cancer Society.”

Event Chair Vonda Davis said there was a purpose behind holding the event from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday - the light and darkness symbolize the emotional and mental state of a cancer patient going through treatment.

“As we walk the track over the last four hours, let us remember what the night is for,” she said.

Master of ceremonies Sanford T. Cook said everyone inside the arena deserved recognition.

“The first thing we’re going to do is give yourselves a hand for being here” and raising money to support the cause, he said.

Madison Hayes, 7, did her part to support the cause by raising $500 for the team “Heather’s Hope” and having her hair cut before the Relay for Life to donate to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

“She’s donated her hair twice before,” her mother, Jessica said.

This time around, she was doing it “in honor of Dee Dee,” her great-grandmother,” Jessica said.

Among the teams participating in this year’s Relay for Life were students from the Massena High School Interact Club, Rotary International’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18.

President Sumiao Pang said they’ve participated in a number of fundraisers for different causes, including the Polar Plunge.

“We raised money and jumped into the river.”

They also hosted a breakfast that raised $570, most of which was donated to Heifer International, a global nonprofit that gives out gifts of livestock, seeds and trees and extensive training to those in need in an effort to end poverty and hunger in a sustainable fashion.

Their efforts to raise money for the American Cancer Society weren’t ending with their participation in the Relay for Life. They’ll be hosting a fundraising spaghetti dinner from 5-8 p.m. June 9 at the Italian-American Club on Beach Street. The cost is $7, and they’ll also have a raffle.

“We’ve been really active the past two years,” Ms. Pang said, noting she joined Interact because “I made friends and become more effective in the community.”

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