Inspired by their own stories of survival, or by seeing loved ones battle a disease that has taken their parents, their siblings, their best friends far too soon, more than 1,000 people are expected to stream into the Frank M. Charles Memorial Park in Howard Beach for the fourth annual Relay for Life event this weekend.
“Every year it’s getting bigger and bigger,” said Kim Trinchese, a Howard Beach resident who was diagnosed with cancer in January of 2010 and marked her two-year anniversary of being free of the disease at the end of March. “It’s contagious —everyone is getting involved because everyone knows someone who has been impacted, and they want to help.”
Trinchese is part of “Forever Friends,” a group of four teams of 15 people each that has raised more than $17,500 for the relay, part of a major national fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.
The funds raised for the weekend, which are expected to total somewhere around $150,000 this year, will go to the ACS, said Phyllis Inserillo, one of the Howard Beach Relay’s co-chairwomen.
The relay, which begins with an opening ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday at the park and runs until Sunday morning, includes a musical performance by the group TKA, a luminaria ceremony and Olympics-themed activities throughout the event.
More than 300 people have signed up to participate, and they have raised more than $130,000 so far online. Inserillo expects that number to dramatically increase by the time the relay wraps up.
“The community really comes together for 18 hours, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Inserillo, who runs the event with fellow Howard Beach resident Melissa Fochetta. “Every year it grows larger. There are more survivors who come and more businesses that get involved. It shows people they’re not the only ones who have gone through this.”
Many of those participating have been directly affected by cancer, and Trinchese said it’s an empowering feeling to raise money for research.
“My mom died 10 years ago of ovarian cancer, and in just 10 years the treatment has changed,” she said. “They have new ways to detect the cancer and less invasive ways to fight it.”
Individuals are still welcome to register for the relay, which they can do online at relayforlife.org/howardbeachny. Those interested in participating can also register the day of the event for a $10 donation.
About 1.6 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to the ACS, and about 577,000 Americans are expected to die of the disease in 2012.