NEWTON, NJ - Spirits were sunny on Saturday, in spite of the on and off soggy conditions on Saturday into Sunday, when participants from the Relay for Life of Greater Sussex County, gathered to walk for the fight against cancer, and celebrate the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society.
A sea of purple-shirted participants, reflected the many cancer survivors, out in force, to raise awareness of how they cancelled cancer out of their lives. Some of the teams had their own logos, showing how they fought the disease.
One of those was Casey Heinke, who walked in honor of her daughter, Bradley, a cancer survivor. Bradley's team sported bright yellow shirts, denoting the relationship of the wearer to Bradley.
Casey Heinke of Sandyston said Bradley has participated in her tenth relay, having been diagnosed with cancer in 2002, with lymphoblastoma, a type of leukemia.
"We're very lucky, our first two relays she wasn't well enough to walk," said Heinke, looking over at her daughter, who was goofing around with her friends as tweens are likely to do.
The remnants of her daughter's cancer include a couple of scars from her port.
"No one would have guessed what she's been through," Heinke said.
"Everybody always has to trust their instinct," said Heinke of her daughter's health. "I knew something wasn't right, if I didn't trust my gut, she may not be here."
Doctors wrote off Bradley's lethargy, and other symptoms as ear infections, but Casey persisted for another diagnosis. From Newton Medical Center, Bradley was transferred to Morristown Medical Center, where she stayed for about a month and a half.
Before survivors like Bradley Heinke took their first lap, an opening ceremony took place.
"Today on this track, we're ready to make some noise," said Jennifer Romer, manager of special events, for the American Cancer Society, and was joined onstage by event co-chairs , Eileen Thompson, Toni McCanbridge, and Hank Pomerantz. "Silence won't fight this, action will."
Throughout the night, relay walkers would show that noise and action, with different laps, such as the Glo Stick Lap, and the Luminaria Lap, where attendees would participate in the lighting of luminarias, which would light the path for their walk throughout the night, into dawn. Bagpipers lead this ceremony, honoring survivors, and those who succumbed to cancer. The first lap was choreographed to an instrumental of the Journey song, "Don't Stop Believing," played by the Kittatinny Marching Band.
Throughout the evening, local talent provided musical entertainmnet, including The Mad Hatters and The Revolution. Lena Chilingerian, a 2007 Pope John alumni (as well as a Montclair State graduate), one of the band members, sang the National Anthem. To be a part of the event was important for Chilingerian.
"I have several survivors, and a few family members who did pass away," said Chilingerian. "If anyone in the community asks for help, I will try to do so."
Relay for Life teams spent the night on the grounds of Sussex County Community College, camped out around the green, walking throughout the night, and recognizing and raising awareness and funds, to help fight cancer. One of the largest amounts of funds raised was for the Thorlabs team, which raised $7,500.
Follow The Alternative Press for Sussex County News and information, as well as news and information on The Alternative Press of Sussex County's Facebook Page.