The mission to honor cancer survivors, remember victims, and raise money for research was evident at the kick-off celebration of Relay for Life of Madison/Florham Park at Powerhouse Studios on Feb. 29.
More than 70 community members, municipal officials, and team captains gathered at East Hanover’s popular party facility to dine on a buffet of salad, chicken marsala, vegetable lasagna, freshly baked cookies, and fruit salad. The program served as a preview of the upcoming Relay, which is the annual major fundraising event of the American Cancer Society scheduled to start on Saturday afternoon, June 23, at .
Karen Winick, Director of Special Events for the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, welcomed guests by sharing the true meaning of Relay for Life.
Relay is “about coming together in the fight against cancer,” she said, according to a release. “It’s a place where people connect with others, share the cancer experience, and find comfort and solace. It’s an opportunity for our community to build hope for a future where cancer no longer threatens the lives of the people we love.”
Winick noted that her organization’s goal for June is to raise more than the $91,000 from the 2011 Relay. “We can continue to make a great impact here in our community by funding research, education, advocacy, and services that allow us to offer help and hope to people when they need it most,” the release stated.
Sources of funding include local and corporate sponsorships, in-kind contributions, and team fundraising. Prospective and returning team captains were asked to start bringing together friends, co-workers, and family members to raise money for the June event.
The event’s website is www.relayforlife.org/MadisonNJ. The local Relay is also accessible on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Relay-For-Life-of-MadisonFlorham-Park/151102428340000.
For the past four years, Kelly’s Angels was the top fundraising team in the local Relay. Barbara Bartolomeo of Florham Park, chairwoman of this year’s Relay and captain of Kelly’s Angels, welcomed guests to the kick-off celebration and spoke about the importance of Relay. “Whether it’s through a friend, family member, the neighbor down the street, or our own personal experiences, we have all been touched by cancer in some way," she in the release as saying. "Each of us has our own reasons for caring about the fight and finding an end to cancer.” Bartolomeo’s team walks in memory of her niece, Kelly O’Day of upstate New York, who died of melanoma in 2006 at age 16.
A highlight of the kick-off celebration was guest speaker Dr. Julie DiGioia, a surgeon who specializes in diseases of the breast, and a breast cancer survivor herself. DiGioia shared stories of her professional career and her own medical treatment. “I have the greatest patients in the world,” she said. “They led me to a place where I knew I would be safe.”
DiGioia also presented a series of inspirational comments based on the letters of the alphabet. They included: “Count your blessings,” “Dream of a world without cancer,” “Express thanks,” and “Hope starts at the grass roots with fundraising and education.” DiGioia concluded by stressing the importance of colonoscopies, mammograms, and quitting smoking in the prevention of cancer.
Kick-off guests were treated to a slideshow of pictures from the 2011 Relay prepared by Florham Park resident and Relay committee volunteer Chris Sardo. The program also featured a candle lighting ceremony led by Florham Park resident Kim Haynes, a Relay committee volunteer. Guests were invited to light candles on decorative cupcakes in memory of loved ones who passed away from cancer. A donation by Stop & Shop of Cedar Knolls subsidized the purchase of the purple and white cupcakes. Relay committee members were designated by boutonnières and corsages generously donated by Hanover Floral Co. of East Hanover. Powerhouse Studios also discounted the rental of its catering space.
During the kick-off, guests were given the opportunity to watch an inspirational Relay video, collect team captain kits, purchase Luminaria for use in June, and take home a stadium cup and pen compliments of the American Cancer Society. Committee members distributed commemorative pins to survivors and caregivers in attendance.
Informational tables for guests included fundraising, mission and advocacy, survivor and caregiver, and activity suggestions for June’s Relay. Ann Tetar, an Iselin resident and Relay participant, won a Visa gift card in a drawing that encouraged guests to visit each informational table.
Several municipal officials were in attendance to lend their support to Relay and help generate interest. Joining Madison Mayor Robert Conley were Florham Park councilmen Charles Germershausen and Mark Taylor, and Florham Park councilwoman Carmen Cefolo-Pane.