The light of luminaries lit up downtown Brantford’s Victoria Park on the night of October 16th through 17th as Laurier students held their third annual Relay for Life. Cancer survivors and Laurier students teamed up and walked around the perimeter of Victoria Park all night in an effort to raise money for cancer research.
The night started off with an opening ceremony, followed by a victory lap with cancer survivors leading the walk while students followed. At 1 am, there was a ceremony to light the luminary candles, and a moment of silence to remember friends and loved-ones.
“Together we are strong,” said Allyson Rowe, executive committee chair, in her speech at opening ceremonies. “You cannot stop and give up, just like those with cancer cannot give up.”
Erin Little, a 4th year Concurrent Education student at Laurier Brantford, is a cancer
survivor. Little had leukemia for five years, and is currently in her 13th year of remission. Diagnosed when she was four on Christmas eve in 1992, Little had to go through several rounds of chemotherapy and several surgeries to remove a mysterious tumor from her head.
“I am always scared that it will come back,” says Little.
So far, Little has been lucky and the cancer has not returned. Her doctor’s main concern has been the effect that the drugs would have on Little’s physical and mental capabilities. Despite these hurdles, Little will be graduating from Laurier this year with the aspiration to teach children in grades 5-8.
Lighting the luminaries at the relay was an emotional time for many people. The number of luminaries served as a little reminder to how many lives have been affected by cancer. About 200 luminaries total lined the steps of the Carnegie Building, and the center statue in Victoria Park. Messages to parents, grandparents and friends were lit up and continued flickering throughout the night.
Julie Lavender, a third year concurrent education student was walking for her aunt and uncle who both passed away from cancer. Everyone that she talked to while collecting pledges was very supportive of her cause. Once she told her friends, family and neighbors that she would be walking from 7pm until 7am, “they were pretty good with giving.”
In total, the relay raised $28 010.60 this year, which pushed the total for the past three years up to about $85 000.
“Relay for Life gives us the opportunity to celebrate [and the] motivation to keep us going,” said Rowe at the closing ceremonies.
She said that by remembering the survivors, it helps us to “remember why we’re here,” walking and supporting cancer research.
From 7pm to 7am students walked, jogged, or ran around the park in just above freezing temperatures. But walkers found ways to deal with the cold. Some brought blankets, but many took refuge in the Students’ Union building periodically throughout the night, which gave participants a chance to rest, play games and warm up before heading back out.
The relay was held at night to signify the dark path of those fighting cancer and as dawn came, so did the promise of hope and a hot breakfast.