A hope that cancer will soon be a thing of the past inspires chairperson Leeann Cawley to devote countless hours chairing the Benicia Relay for Life, an annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. This year’s 18-hour relay takes place Aug. 20-21 at Benicia Middle School, a temporary change in venue from previous events. The usual location at Benicia High School track field is currently undergoing renovations. At the middle school, activities will take place in and around the baseball field. To symbolize the continuous battle cancer patients and their caregivers go through every day, participants will walk in a nonstop procession. This year’s theme is “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back.” The local relay has 14 teams signed up, with more expected to participate. $70,000 to $100,000 is the targeted goal for cancer treatment and research.
Emotions typically run high at the Relay for Life and this year should be no exception. The event starts 6pm Friday, Aug. 20 with a Survivors Lap in which those who have fought cancer and are now in remission don purple T-shirts and take a victory lap to celebrate life, and inspire hope and endurance. They and their caregivers also remember their journey through diagnosis and treatment and pledge support to others. Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson and other dignitaries will offer remarks. Shortly afterwards, organizers stage an evening lighting of candle luminaries to remember and honor loved ones lost to cancer and those now fighting the disease. With candle flames flickering in the night, this is a powerful, inspiring ritual as it gives people a place to work through their grief and find hope, organizers said.Throughout the night, team members take turns walking laps, and sell arts and crafts, raffle tickets or other items to raise money. Benicia Police Department officers will, for the first time, walk in uniform to show their support and involvement in the community, said
Cawley. Saturday morning will bring something new. Suzanne Castleman of Benicia’s Featherer Pet and James Long of Pups N Purzz, will be on hand to volunteer for the new Bark for Life event, from 8am-noon to honor dog companions who have cancer or who have died from it. The Benicia police K-9 units will be doing demonstrations, dog adoptions will be offered and a number of vendors will be on hand. A Disc Dogs of the Golden Gate tournament will also be held, along with raffles, prizes, and doggie dress-up contests. Dog owners must register their pets either beforehand or the day of the event to participate, with proceeds to go for cancer treatment and research. Go to relayforlife.org/barkbeniciaca or call the American Cancer Society at 707.720.0104 for details. Visitors can also stop in at Pups N Purzz, 422 First St., or call Long at 707.748.7433 with general questions.
With so many lives touched by cancer, the relay allows people to come together and find strength, said Cawley, a longtime Benician who, with her husband Bill, owns Benicia Plumbing, Inc. As the emotional event draws to a close at noon Saturday, participants take a pledge for what they can do the rest of the year to continue to fight cancer. Anyone who would like to participate in this year’s relay can go to relayforlife.org/beniciaca or call Leeann Cawley at 707.334.0077. Teams, individuals and survivors need to register either beforehand or the day of the event. More information is also on the Relay for Life of Benicia Facebook page.