A local Relay for Life chapter raised more than $200,000—a personal record—for cancer treatment services and research Saturday, June 20, at Fort Hamilton High School.
The 17th annual fundraiser for the Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights areas, devoted to raising money for research and providing cancer patients with free lodging while they undergo treatment, among other services, was held at the school’s athletic field and welcomed more than 450 people.
Through individual and team donations, along with some sponsors, Relay for Life raised more than $218,000, up from $208,000 total last year, and more than any other year.
“This is an atmosphere of community,” said Joe Gillette, who helped raised more than $40,000.
People walked in remembrance of cancer victims, donated to the organization, and participated in games and other activities until sunset.
“It’s always a positive kind of environment,” said Joann Rizzo, a physical education teacher at P.S. 264, whose fundraising team helped raise, as of Sunday morning, $18,942. “Everyone’s going around, talking to each other, being friendly, getting food from each other.”
“It’s been great. I’ve been so impressed that people have stayed, even with the rain,” said Ben Messner, the senior manager for Relay for Life’s NY Metro division. “It shows commitment to the fight against cancer.”
At sunset, the day culminated in Relay’s trademark Luminaria Ceremony. More than 6,000 hand-decorated paper lanterns—each the size of a small lunch bag and bearing the name of a cancer victim—were lined along the field’s track.
“The memory we honor tonight—it’s the love we share,” Amy Christodoulou, an organizer, said at the ceremony. “Although we don’t see you, you’ll always be with us,” she said to the cancer victims honored.
“The Luminaria Ceremony was very moving and beautiful,” Mandy Mak, an attendee, said. “I really enjoyed the event.”
At nearly 9 p.m., with the sun set and most of the lights around the field shut off so the lanterns illuminated the area, a chorus and some singers sang to commemorate the victims. Then, as bagpipes played in the background, the attendees walked on the track, past each lantern, in a silent remembrance of every victim represented.
“You see how many families have been affected [by cancer],” said Chris Ferrara, whose mother Debbie, who died of colon cancer in 2008, was named the night’s honoree. “Seeing an enlarged picture of my mother while they sang was very emotional.”
Jeanine Ramirez, a news anchor for NY1, emceed earlier in the day. Time Warner Cable, NY1’s parent company, was one of the event’s sponsors.