Saturday, May 9, 2009

Slightly sore after walking in the dark

24 hours after it started, I'm home from participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and recovered/awake enough to write about.

First, I want to thank everyone who made a donation to support my walk -- I surpassed my personal goal of raising $500 and our company team, the KVH Cancer Crusaders, raised more than $1,500 along with donations of materials for Hope Lodge in Boston. Congratulations also to everyone on the team (especially our awesome team captain Nicole Chevrette) who took time from home and their families to set up tents, walk more than 50 miles through the night, and then pack everything up amidst a pretty steady and moderately heavy rain this morning.

The KVH Cancer Crusaders, 2009 Edition

While I wasn't sure what to expect, it turned out to be a pretty special event. Kicking off with a celebration of survivors, including my mother, the field at Gaudet Middle School in Middletown, RI, was packed with people. Almost our entire family was there and together, we all shared a lap for survivors and their caregivers before beginning the long task of walking through the night.

Mom and her granddaughter Lorelei looked great as they came on to the track at the start of the Opening Ceremonies

Mom and the rest of the family circles the track together in a celebration of Survivors and their Caregivers

Lighting our way were more than 1,200 Cancer Society "luminaria", each decorated in memory of a loved one lost or in support of someone currently fighting or recovering from cancer. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when the stadium lights were turned off and a bagpiper slowly circled the track playing "Amazing Grace" and followed by all of the participants.

Watched by an-almost full moon, 1,200 luminaria stood vigil through the night and guided the steps of Relay walkers

Ensuring that there was always a member of the team walking, we were able to take breaks, catch brief naps here and there, grab a bite to eat, or just chat quietly amidst the tent city (well, tent village might be more accurate) established by the participating teams.

The Relay for Life "tent city" as seen from the bleachers at 2:30 AM

When the rain came, first just as a light sprinkle at 1:30 AM and then as heavier rain at 4 AM, the walkers were undeterred. None of us got much sleep -- by the time we returned home this morning, I was operating on about 90 minutes of light napping -- we were all moderately sore, and the rain made us all squelch like sponges as we bundled up soaking tents and hauled gear to our cars, but it all felt worthwhile.

In the grand scheme of things, the amount of money we raised is a drop in the bucket compared to the funds directed to cancer research and treatment but the real value for us came in the solidarity and sense of community engendered by the experience. The look on my mother's face as we stood alongside the track clapping and cheering for her and the other cancer survivors made it absolutely worth the effort, the lack of sleep, and the sore feet.

My stepfather John, accompanied by my colleague Angela, finishes his 60th lap and 15th mile at 3:10 AM

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