MADISON, NJ - The eighth annual Relay for Life of Madison & Florham Park took place at Madison High School on Saturday and continued all night into Sunday morning. As of Saturday afternoon, the event raised more than $46,000 and the goal of raising $53,000 will likely be achieved, according to Caitlin Udall, a manager of special events for the American Cancer Society, the organization which will receive all of the funds.
The event consisted of more than 300 hundred participants and 20 teams and was staffed entirely by volunteers.
“Funds go to research, patient services, and advocacy, but mostly to the rehabilitation services that we provide. Those services include wig fitting, rides to and from treatment for people that don’t have transportation, support groups, patient advocates in hospitals, and more,” said Udall.
Many participants put up tents in the field and stayed overnight.
Local businesses set up vendor booths, a new addition to this year’s relay. All proceeds from the booths will go to the ACS. Vendors included Moe’s Southwest Grill, LiveStrong at the Y, The Glass Torch, Pink Zebra, My 31, Origami Owl, Massage Envy Spa, Primrose School of Florham Park, Secret Garden Soap, Mary Kay, Joint Care Physical Therapy, Little Jimmy’s Italian Ice, and others. The Madison Fire Department ran the Snack Shack, serving hot dogs and hamburgers.
The opening ceremony began at 6 p.m. with the Madison Boy Scout Troop #25 ushering the flag onto the track, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by Brooke Shanley, a seventh-grade resident of Florham Park.
Barbara Bartolomeo, chair of entertainment and activities and a member of Kelly’s Angels, a team established in honor of her niece, Kelly O’Day, then addressed the crowd. “We’re all here for the same reason: to put an end to cancer. The money raised at this relay and those taking place in over 5,000 communities in 20 countries will help us finish the fight...By walking the track tonight, you are joining forces with over four million people worldwide who want to save lives and support the American Cancer Society,” she said.
Donna Libretti Cooke, a cancer survivor, then spoke of her battle with cancer: the amazing support she received from friends and family, the resources provided by the ACS, and the power of belief. Bartolomeo presented Cooke with a gift from the ACS.
Caitlin Udall commended Bartolomeo, the volunteers, and the boroughs of Madison and Florham Park for their efforts. She also thanked the local business who provided financial support and donated goods, highlighting the assistance of the event’s main corporate sponsor, Novartis. Udall presented awards to the 2014 All Stars (those who raised over $2,500) and members of the Grand Club (those who raised over $1,000), team awards, and an award to Kelly’s Angels, who have raised over $100,000 in total from their participation in many relays.
The Survivor and Caregiver Lap then kicked off the relay as the deejay played American Author’s “Believer.” The All Teams Lap came second, for which the 20 teams filled in behind the survivors and caregivers to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.”
All survivors and caregivers were honored with a complimentary buffet-style dinner in the school cafeteria. Flower arrangements, stones crafted by students of Ridgedale Middle School Art Club in Florham Park, and heart-shaped souvenirs from Florham Park Girl Scout Troops #1015 populated the tables. All food was donated. The menu included eggplant parm, garlic focaccia, Angelato’s gelato from Dorina’s Kitchen; assorted appetizers from David’s Rumba Café; dinner rolls from D. Zizza and Sons Deli and Bakery; punch from the relay committee; fresh fruit and salad from Powerhouse Studios and Entertainment; a pita bar from Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill; and penne marinara from Nonna’s Italian Restaurant.
The luminaria ceremony took place at 9 p.m. Candles lined the track and were arranged in the stands to spell “LOVE” and “HOPE.” Co-chairs Kim Haynes and Lisa Iantosca explained the symbolism behind the candles: “for all loved ones who lost their battle to cancer, for all cancer survivors that are here with us tonight, and for all caregivers.” A video then played, displaying the names of those who have battled or lost their lives to cancer.
Many themed relays took place throughout the afternoon and night, including a “patriotic lap,” a “dance it up lap,” a “backwards lap,” and others. Attendees also enjoyed fitness activities and entertainment throughout the event, such as Hip Hop for Kids with Danielle Delvescovo, a scavenger hunt, a wiffle ball game, Pound Workout with Melissa Towey, Zumba with Andrea Pleckaitis, yoga with Lori Whittaker, and more. Many local musicians and bands performed, including Jeff Webb, Dairy Farmers, Kings Road, Grace Church’s Gargoyles and Daughters of Zion, Rosewood, and Doctor D Entertainment.
On Sunday at 6 a.m., the closing ceremony will take place, during which Caitlin Udall will announce the top fundraising individual and team.
Those who wish to support the ACS may visit their website, http://www.cancer.org/.