MASSENA - The American Cancer Society Relay for Life season officially started Wednesday night with a kickoff for the Massena/Louisville event that will be held in June.
This years theme is Sporting for a Cure, and the walls at the Massena Meals on Wheels, site of the kickoff, were adorned with all types of sports memorabilia, from hockey jerseys and a New York Yankees jacket, to ice skates and batting helmets, to a Buffalo Bills banner and Boston Red Sox pennant.
In celebration of the sports theme, Jonathan A. French; his son, Jonathan G. French; and Andrew Harvey showcased their Taekwondo talents with several demonstrations to kick off the event.
Although the local Relay for Life isnt until June 7 at the Louisville Community Center, Laura E. Gregory, American Cancer Society St. Lawrence County community executive ,said it was important to get a jump start so money could be raised to help cancer patients.
Were looking forward to relay and getting back in the season, she said. Relay for Life is very important to us. Its one of the largest fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. It helps to fuel our mission.
The relay honors cancer survivors and remembers those who have been lost to cancer, while collecting funds to support the American Cancer Societys research, education, advocacy, and patient services, Ms. Gregory said.
Last year, she said, they helped 369 patients in the county and assisted 184 people with lodging totalling 937 nights.
Among the services they provide are the Look Good... Feel Better program, a free, national public service program that helps women cancer patients improve their appearance and self-image by teaching them hands-on beauty techniques to manage their appearance from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Ms. Gregory said they also offer a Man to Man prostate cancer support group, as well as counseling services and a toll-free number at 800-ACS-2345 thats available around the clock all year long.
Patients can also receive a personal health manager who helps them through their cancer journey, Ms. Gregory said.
Were able to do this because of all the work you do, she said.
Two local cancer survivors expressed their appreciation for the work done by the American Cancer Society and the participants in the annual Relay for Life.
Sarah Murphy, 18, a senior at Massena High School, is the team captain for the Interact team that participates in the relay. She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in May 2004.
I spent two years getting treatment, she said.
At age 12, she needed to receive a bone marrow transplant after the cancer reemerged.
Even now I have to go to Boston for checkups and tests, she said.
Ms. Murphy said shes saddened to see the number of patients, young and old alike, who are affected by cancer. But it can be beat, she said.
Even though having cancer is no fun, it helped me grow and helped me realize that if I can get through that, I can get through anything, she said.
Cathy Dix, 54, said she had never spoken publicly about her battle with breast cancer three years ago. She received the news from her gynecologist after receiving a mammogram.
It took me by surprise. Theres no history of breast cancer in my family, she said. Because I have a very young family, I said nothings going to stop me.
Because her breast cancer was discovered early before it spread, Ms. Dix said she received a brief treatment of radiation.
This will be her third year as a team member and team captain for one of the Relay for Life teams.
I certainly try to promote relay out there. The realization is it can happen to anybody, she said. Despite the diagnosis, we have to stay positive.
I dont think there is anybody out there who doesnt know somebody affected by cancer, Luminary Committee Co-Chair Nora Darling said.
Last years event in Louisville included 389 participants on 33 teams, plus 75 survivors, who are considered special guests and participate in a Survivors Lap to kick off the 12-hour event. The 2012 Relay for Life raised nearly $70,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Teams can still sign up for this years Relay for Life at www.relayforlife.org/massenany.