WEST ORANGE, NJ - (Editor's Note: Jake Klein, a TAPinto.net West Orange High School Team reporter, captained his own Relay for Life team, team "Dream Big.")
Bad weather and a change of location was no match for the amazing effort and support shown at the Relay for Life event held at West Orange High School on Friday, July 13. Due to inclement weather, the event, originally scheduled to run from 6 p.m. - 6 a.m. on the Joe Suriano stadium track, was moved to the gymnasium and concluded at 11:30 p.m. The Tarnoff gym and surrounding hallways and classrooms overflowed with supporters of the cause.
"It seems like every time I turn around someone else is being diagnosed with or dying from cancer," said Sharon Scalora, 46, a West Orange resident whose daughter Annabelle has co-captained a team for two years.
She added, "My father died from prostate cancer three and a half years ago, and three weeks later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My aunt just died from pancreatic cancer. I think everyone can say they have been touched in one way or another by this disease. It's frightening, but it makes it a little less scary when a community like ours comes together to do something about it."
Elementary, middle, and high school students; families, friends, and businesses; members of the New Jersey State Police Academy, and the West Orange PBA formed “relay teams” and set up shop in classrooms and ran fundraising activities to keep participants at the event entertained. Teams offered tye-dying, sold gently used books and much more.
The event was kicked off with a speech from event coordinator Lisa Renwick. Following this were the first laps, taken around the second floor of the Pleasant Valley Way and Tarnoff wings of the school. The hallways were lined with Luminaria bags honoring those who have either lost their battles with cancer, are still fighting, or are survivors.
Midway through the evening, the lights of the gymnasium were turned off and a slide show, listing names of those who have passed due to cancer was played. The gym was silent in respect and at the conclusion, a silent lap took place. During this, the glow of the Luminaria bags resonated through the halls.
"It's hard for people to understand on a day-to-day basis how cancer affects so many people and so many lives," said Sarah Kravits, 48, of West Orange. Kravits was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and is currently in remission. Her daughter Sarah is team captain of the Pink Resistance.
She added, "What Relay does is bring us all together for a group conversation and action, making the concept more tangible, more real. With the physical and emotional experience, people learn what's happening and become more motivated to do something about it both together and independently."
Relay for Life 2014 concluded with news that the event raised $80,000 for the American Cancer Society. Despite the change in plans, the event was just as big of a success as it has been in the past. With the help of numerous teams composed of caring and hardworking individuals, even the weather couldn't put a damper on the great effort put toward a great cause.