Julie Druker | Jun 17, 2010
Survivors’ lap at the Flinton Relay led by survivor chair Sherry Tebo with Irene Hosking (in silver hat) and Dan Bolduc (behind Irene with glasses and beard)
This year’s Relay for Life was a year of firsts in a number of ways, making the already high energy and emotionally charged event that much more so. It’s the first year the event has been held in Flinton, at the Recreation Club; the first time that Carolyn Hasler of Flinton has chaired the event; and for many participants, their first time joining a team and walking through the night for what is the Canadian Cancer Society's biggest fundraiser of the year.
By 7PM 350 people had registered on 33 teams and were hunkered down for a long night of memories, tears and laughter.
The opening ceremonies were emceed by Kyle Perry, news announcer for 95.5 Hits FM in Belleville, who introduced Relay Chair Carolyn Hasler, Reeve Henry Hogg, and Glen McFadden of the Land O' Lakes Lions Club, the event’s major sponsor. Survivor Chair Sherry Tebo then introduced two local cancer survivors who told their personal tales of triumph.
Dan Bolduc of Northbrook was diagnosed with leukemia in March 2005 and underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant from a German donor. He has been cancer free since then. Soon after his ordeal he remarried and though his doctors told him the chances of him fathering another child were next to nil, his wife gave birth to their son Spencer months later. Bolduc thanked the Canadian Cancer Society for the fine research they do and also thanked his friends and family for all of their support.
Survivor Irene Hosking of Harlowe was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus in 1963 when she was 31 and credited a close friend who urged her to get a second opinion for “saving her life”. Irene stated, “If I have one message for everyone here tonight, it is this: If you are not feeling right – definitely go and get a second opinion.” Three months after that second opinion Irene underwent a six-hour surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She has now been cancer free for 47 years .
Photo right: Dylan Walker and Debbie McLeod
Six-year old Dylan Walker's grandmother, Debbie McLeod of Northbrook, spoke last. She spoke about Dylan's diagnosis on Remembrance Day - neuroblastoma and the multiple sets of chemotherapy, radiation treatments and stem cell therapies he has been undergoing since then. The treatments have eradicated all but one of his tumors. Dylan joined Debbie on stage to cheers and applause and spoke to the crowd about his determination to “get better.”
The first lap of the relay was reserved for the survivors and the sea of yellow-shirted survivors brought forth many tears from onlookers, who applauded them throughout.
Next, the 33 teams took to the field, marching to their upbeat theme songs in colorful costumes beneath hand-painted banners bearing their names. Among the teams were: Hunting for the Cure, Larc's Rays of Hope, Surrender the Booty, and Angels in the Outfield.
For many it was their first time participating in a relay. I spoke with Sheila Perry of the team Wally's Warriors, named in honour of her brother Wally Paddick of Arden, who passed away in October 2009. “We are here to honour him and everyone else who has lost the fight, as well as to honour those who have won it.” She continued, “It's going to be a night of tears - a lot of laughter too.”
Team Mission McFadden carried photographed memorials of friends and family members who have succumbed to the disease. Team member Nell McFadden, who was lapping the track with her teammates, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September 2010. She underwent surgery at KGH and did chemo for six months. In her words, “I got great care and now I feel brand new.”
One of the most moving moments during every relay is the luminary ceremony, which occurs after dusk. Hundreds of candles in small white bags are lit, and they glow, lining the entire track around the field.
Earlier in the evening, first-time Relay Chair Carolyn Hasler had proclaimed to the crowd, “They said we couldn't do it, but we did it!” She thanked all of her dedicated volunteers and committee chairs, who helped make the event not only possible, but an overwhelming success. Except for the early morning rain, the event went off without a hitch. Hasler in fact was so thrilled with the outcome she confessed to me that she heartily agreed with one enthusiastic volunteer, who suggested to her that Flinton be home to the relay for the next five years.
“I see no reason why not. We did it once – we can surely do it again. It was a truly amazing 24 hours and the event will definitely be the talk of the town and surrounding communities for a long while to come,” she said.
Congratulations to Carolyn, the volunteers, and all the sponsors, participants and donors who celebrated, remembered, and fought back. As of Monday morning over $73,000 has been raised for the cause, with some pledges still outstanding. Just one more reason to consider Flinton as the relay's new home - at least for a few more years to come.