Still looking to raise $1 million in Queens this year, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life program kicks off with its first event on April 13 to 14 and winds up with its last walk on June 23 to 24.
Ten programs will be held this year, compared to 12 last year when Queens residents raised $740,270. Suzanne Isbell, manager of special events for the ACS’s Queens office, said it takes a lot of time and dedication to organize an event so it’s not unexpected that sites change from time to time.
New this year is the Queens College Relay for Life, set for April 26 to 27 on the college’s mall on the Flushing campus.
The program began in 1986 in the state of Washington and is now a major national fundraising event for the cancer society, which considers it “a unique celebration of life.” In most cases, it is an overnight event whereby teams of eight to 15 people take turns walking or running around a track.
Teams collect money prior to the relay in several ways, including car washes and personal solicitations. Some relays have themes, with teams putting their own spin on costumes.
The overall atmosphere is festive as teams camp out, enjoy donated food, music and entertainment. The first lap is reserved for cancer survivors and when it gets dark, there is a luminaria candle ceremony for those who have been affected by the disease.
This year, following the survivors’ lap, there will be a walk for the caregivers in honor of their involvement throughout the year.
Money raised goes for research, education, advocacy and services. In Queens, services can mean accessing a wig for a cancer patient, finding temporary recovery space and counseling and family support.
By 2015, the ACS hopes to prevent almost 5 million additional deaths from cancer, avoid 6 million new cancer diagnoses and continue to improve the quality of life for disease sufferers.
The borough’s most successful Relay for Life last year was by the Middle Village group, which raised $164,549. The event is held in Juniper Valley Park.
Maria Vega of Glendale is the co-chairwoman and a cancer survivor due to early detection. This will be her seventh year with the relay and she points with pride to the “great outpouring by the community” that makes the event a success every year.
Vega expects 1,000 participants. The Middle Village theme is Decades of Hope. “It’s an amazing event for the community,” she said. “All kinds of food are donated and businesses and groups like the Cub Scouts come together to help.”
Phyllis Inserillo is co-chairwoman of the Howard Beach event, which raised $150,000 last year and is hoping to bring in even more this year by breaking up the activities. This spring, a separate Kids Care event will be held on April 29 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a Lindenwood parking lot at 151st Avenue and 84th Street.
“In the past, we combined both the relay and kids program at one event and it was just a lot for one day,” Inserillo said. “At the Kids Care, there will be a carnival, children’s shows, face painting and lots more, where we hope to take in more money.”
Her June 9 to 10 Relay will have about 500 participants, including Howard Beach’s own Pia Toscano, who was a contestant on American Idol last year.
For Inserillo, organizing the Relay for Life program has special meaning. “I know so many people who had cancer,” she said. “It puts it in perspective for me and to see so many survivors is remarkable.”
There is still time for Queens residents to get involved in one of the 10 Relay events. Listed below are all the venues and contact information.
• Astoria at Astoria Park on June 23-24. The theme this year is Carnival. Contact: relayforlife.org/astoriany
• College Point at MacNeil Park on June 9-10. The theme is Carnival. Contact: relayforlife.org/collegepointny
• Delta Air Lines at JFK on May 10. A relay will be held in the terminal for airline employees and passengers. One-day event only. Contact relayforlife.org/deltany
• Flushing at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Park; a one-day program on June 9. There is no theme. Contact: relayforlife.org/ntcny
• Fort Totten in Bayside on June 2-3. There is no theme. Contact: relayforlife.org/forttottenny
• Howard Beach at Frank M. Charles Memorial Park on June 9-10. The theme this year is Luau. To get involved, contact: relayforlife.org/howardbeachny
• Middle Village at Juniper Valley Park on June 23-24. The theme this year is Decades of Hope. To participate, contact: relayforlife.org/middlevillageny
• Queens College on the mall on April 26-27. This event is for students. Contact: relayforlife.org/queenscollegeny
• Riis Park in the Rockaways on June 23-24. This is the oldest relay program in the borough, having been started 12 years ago. There is no theme this year. Contact: relayforlife.org/riisparkny
• St. John’s University on the Jamaica campus on April 13-14 in the Lou Carnesecca Arena. There is no theme. You don’t have to be a student or alumni member to participate. Contact: relayforlife.org/stjohnsuniversityny
To register, participate or for further information, log onto relayforlife.org or call the Queens office at (718) 261-1092.