South Brooklyn relays for life for 19th year in a row

Despite the intermittent rain, community members turned out at Poly Prep in honor of the fight against cancer, on Saturday, June 17, during the 19th annual Relay for Life of Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights.

The event raises money for the American Cancer Society to support those fighting the disease as well as detection, treatment and research.

Coming back after the death of her son Giuseppe, who preferred to be called Joseph, Janie Parrelli said an inspiring part of her experience was “seeing everybody equal, there for the same cause and reason. It’s hard, but just knowing you’re not alone makes it a little easier.”

Parrelli was honored as a caregiver last year, and said a little sundog peeking through the clouds was a sign from her son that she was doing things right.

Slightly over $700 had been raised in Joseph’s name by John Dewey High School, and the mother said she was touched that so many of Joseph’s fellow classmates from the Kingsborough Early College Secondary School (KECSS) were in attendance.

This year, Parrelli raised around $850 as a team captain. “I think a sense of keeping his memory alive, this is what he wanted.”

A survivor herself, third-time committee member and P.S. 186 Wonder Walker representative Elaine Delaney received a purple star at the event. The Wonder Walkers team has brought in $8,000 so far this year.

“Seeing how many survivors there are actually are, that there is life after that, it’s so nice to see,” said Delaney when asked what inspires her most.

As for her support system, Delaney said her husband and sons are, “The reason you fight. I have two boys, and they’re my world. I don’t ever want my children to hear the words that I heard.”

“The experience overall was pretty amazing since the weather wasn’t all that well, but people were still hanging out and fundraising for their teams, all in support of fighting cancer and to find a cure,” said her son Patrick, “Overall I think everyone enjoyed the day. Rain or shine, we all came together to take a stand and that’s what matters most.”

P.S. 205 this year raised $2,900 for pediatric cancer at an ice cream sale, coming to participate after a teacher employed at the school died from the disease.

“I feel like everybody knows somebody who’s been touched by cancer. It affects our school, and with this we know that we’re helping,” said P.S. 205 Team Captain Nicole Erlich.

The luminaria ceremony, which was rained out, is being rescheduled for a later time to be determined by members of the committee, according to Patrick.

Delaney said she hoped to bring more awareness to the cause for the event’s 20th anniversary, next year, and would love to honor a medical professional in the future. Currently, Delaney is working to expand the reach of the event, possibly as far as Staten Island, with the help of Amy Christodoulou — an event lead and fellow cancer survivor that has been involved with Relay for 17 years.

“She works so hard putting the event together,” said Delaney of Christodoulou.

This year’s Relay itself has brought in more than $212,000 so far, including all schools and community based teams. Honorees of the day included John Quaglione, Anthony Passaro, Paul Murphy, Rae LaTerra, the Greco family and Delaney. This year’s Luminaria ceremony was set to pay tribute to P.S. 264 teacher Merideth Wos, who lost her battle with leukemia in November, 2016, just months after she was diagnosed with the disease.

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