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Cold, wet Relay for Life didn't dampen Airdrie's enthusiasm

The residents of Airdrie have managed to amaze me once again.
Cancer survivors walk the first lap at the second annual Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life in Airdrie, May 28. About 175 residents braved the cold, rain and snow to show
Cancer survivors walk the first lap at the second annual Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life in Airdrie, May 28. About 175 residents braved the cold, rain and snow to show their support at the overnight relay at East Lake Park.

The residents of Airdrie have managed to amaze me once again.

Despite freezing temperatures, snow, rain, wind and mud, about 175 Airdronians came out to the second annual Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life at East Lake Park on May 28-29 to raise $60,000 for cancer research.

That’s right, May 28 to 29. As in sleeping overnight in a tent in -2°C weather and snow in May! The 12-hour, overnight, non-competitive fundraiser included 10-person teams, with participants taking turns walking or running around a track – all night.

People huddled together for warmth and donned toques, mittens, rubber boots, ski socks and even heated jackets and pants. Fuelled by burgers, cake, pizza, coffee and hot chocolate, participants walked around the track, warmed up by the fire pit, sang karaoke or took refuge in one of two large tents.

My hat (or toque) is off to the troopers who stayed all night. Because I moved out of my apartment on May 29, I called it quits at about 11 p.m. on the 28th, but dozens of people walked the track all night to show their support for victims and survivors of cancer. To you, I say thank you.

I joined the volunteer committee for the Relay for Life last year after writing a story about the group. My reason for dedicating my time to an event that raised money for the cause was that my mom passed away from breast cancer in 2004. My experience has made me determined to see the cure for cancer in my lifetime.

The goal became even more important to me this year when my best friend of 13 years was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January. I am thrilled to say he finished his treatment two weeks ago and was able to take part in the first lap of the Relay, proudly wearing his yellow Relay for Life survivors shirt.

It was heartwarming to see the determination, strength and courage on the faces of the survivors as they walked the first lap. Survivors ranged in age from children to the elderly. They walked together, united by the disease and their will to fight it. Each wore their yellow survivors shirts, which shone like sunshine through the clouds, warming up the participants and fuelling our drive to do all we can to beat this disease. The fact that so many dedicated residents came out to the event, despite the dismal weather, to support the survivors really touched my heart.

At dusk, I hosted the luminary ceremony where people light candles to remember loved ones they have lost to the disease. Although the candles did not stay lit for long because of the rain and wind, the ceremony symbolized the fact that everyone who has lost their fight with the disease lives on within their loved ones.

Planning, participating and speaking at this event was an enriching experience that gave me one very important thing, something I think we all lose every once in a while – hope. Hope that we will one day find a cure and the assurance that a cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

If these strong individuals, including my friend, can be faced with the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of cancer, live to beat it and move on with their lives, anything is possible.

We are making progress in the fight to make cancer history and this weekend Airdrie proved that people will do anything to ensure our children and our children’s children live in a world without cancer.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who was involved in this year’s Canadian Cancer Society Airdrie Relay for Life.