CHATHAM, NJ – Chatham’s fourth annual “Relay for Life” fundraising campaign for the American Cancer Society (ACS) came to a celebratory close at Haas Field, where 49 teams and 500-plus Relay participants convened.
They walked laps around the track, did line-dancing and Zumba, celebrated those who have battled cancer in a moving luminaria ceremony, and heard inspirational stories from cancer survivors and caregivers. The amount of donations collected during the fundraising drive totaled $142,285, bringing the dollars raised by the Chatham Relay over the past four years to more than $435,000.
At the Opening Ceremony, Austin DeSavino, Community Manager, Relay for Life, recognized the three individuals, adult teams and youth teams that raised the most money. The top individual fundraisers were: Sophia Cuttita, who raised $4,406; Amy and Jason Spina, who raised $3,615; and Shannon Peters, who raised $3,600.
The top three adult teams continued the high level of fundraising they have demonstrated over the past three to four years. They were: the Wickham Woodpeckers, a team of 34 members that raised $19,375; Girlz from the Hood, a 12-member team that raised $11,495; and Sole Sisters, a 13-member team that raised $5,679. For the second consecutive year, “Chatham Chicks Crush Cancer,” a team of 19 members, earned “top youth team” honors, by collecting $11,689 in donations while 21 team members of “Taking Strides to Save Lives” raised $7,802 and the 18-member “All Night for the Fight” team raised $7,066.
Carolyn Dempsey, a cancer survivor, spoke to the crowd at Haas Field about her positive experience with DigniCap®, a new technology that prevents what, up to now, has been the inevitable hair loss in chemotherapy patients while undergoing treatment. (Chemotherapy, which is designed to kill rapidly dividing mutated cancerous cells, also attacks other cells in the body that are naturally rapidly dividing, such as hair cells.)
Ms. Dempsey, while a patient at the Weill Cornell Breast Center, participated in a successful clinical trial of DigniCap®, an innovative scalp cooling system. The cap, that contains ice packs made with a special gel, hypothermically cools the scalp, causing two physiologic reactions to occur: 1) the blood vessels in the scalp constrict and limit the amount of chemotherapy agents delivered to the scalp area; and 2) a reduced scalp temperature causes normal cellular activity in the localized scalp area to slow dramatically. As a result, much fewer chemotherapy agents become absorbed by the hair cells and damage is significantly reduced.
“To see yourself in the mirror (with hair) and not see the cancer is very powerful,” Ms. Dempsey confided to the audience. “It reminds you that you’re going to survive, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” Patients undergoing chemotherapy wear the cap for 30 minutes before treatment, during treatment, and for several hours afterward. “It was cold, but not unbearable by any means,” Dempsey said. “Basically, you just feel numb.”
The FDA recently gave clearance to DigniCap® for the treatment of women with breast cancer in the U.S. Infusion centers across the country are now able to offer this option directly to patients as part of their chemotherapy treatment.
This year’s Chatham Relay was open to residents of East Hanover, Florham Park and Madison. As a result, Whole Foods of Madison and Retro Fitness of Florham Park joined Shop-Rite of Chatham as the top local businesses involved with the event.
Retro Fitness Owner Teresa Intravaia commented on the enthusiasm with which her staff embraced the ACS fundraiser: “As Relay approached, I reached out to my instructors for volunteers to do Group Fitness Instruction at the Relay. They were so happy to help and to give back to ACS. They instructed POUND, Zumba and Plyoga classes at Relay and I was so excited to see the smiling faces of all those who participated. It was truly an honor for Retro Fitness to have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing event, and I hope next year we can contribute even more.”
Shannon Holmes, the Survivor Chairperson and a member of the Event Leadership Committee, talked about her experience with Relay. “Being involved with Relay for Life again this year was such a privilege. The survivor dinner is an opportunity for cancer survivors to meet other community members who have had some of the same experiences and recognize that cancer is not something that is faced alone. Each year, our community of survivors returns to share stories and celebrate milestones while reconnecting with other community survivors and caregivers. As the survivors take the first lap around the track, the rest of the Relay community cheers their victory over cancer. It truly is a celebration.”
Survivors and caregivers were treated to a delicious dinner and dessert catered and served by Whole Foods of Madison, and to chair massages by massage therapists from Retro Fitness.