A year after the COVID pandemic forced the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to be held as a drive-through event, organizers and volunteers took to the track Saturday and Sunday at the St. Croix Educational Complex for the 20th anniversary of the popular relay run/walk.
There were 33 teams registered for this year’s relay, according to the chairperson, Rosalie Javois. Teams crowded onto the track after the opening ceremonies at 4 p.m. Saturday. The relay ended at noon Sunday.
Each team donated $1,500 plus $12 for members’ T-shirts. Team members committed to complete a certain number of laps.
Corporations such as Viya, nonprofit organizations such as Lutheran Social Services and government agencies including the V.I. Legislature sponsored at least one 15-person team. Sens. Kurt Vialet and Steven Payne each sponsored teams and participated in the entire event.
The event began with a walk around the track by cancer survivors and when darkness fell, dozens of luminaria were lit in honor of those who did not survive the disease.
“The lighting of the luminaria was the highlight of the event. The positive energy was there,” Fiona Stokes, Legit Team member, said.
While the teams began walking and jogging, survivors were served dinner and presented with gifts bags. According to Patricia Sage, the relay’s secretary and survivors lead, said 180 survivors were served dinner last year and maybe half as many this year.
“It’s designed to say we thank God you are here,” Sage said.
The Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the V.I. American Cancer Society and the goal is to raise $150,000. Debra Webster, of Sunny Isle Management, was excited Sunday morning. She thinks her team, one of three Teams Sunshine, may have raised the most money – almost $10,000. The team members used text messages to friends with links to invite them to donate to ACS.
Although he didn’t sponsor a team, Dr. Angelo Galiber, a radiologist, walked the course Sunday morning. He said the relay and the ACS provide an important “safety net” for cancer patients.
“The real value of the American Cancer Society is research, and money gives power to research,” he said.
Galiber believes it is just a matter of time before a cancer cure is discovered. Most cancers are tied to one genome that is smaller than Microsoft Office, he said.
Rain and wind throughout Saturday night hindered the teams, but Agriculture Commissioner Positive T.A. Nelson and the DJ lifted the crowd’s spirits throughout the night, Javois said.
“All of the time, each team is expected to have someone on the track. I tell you some didn’t miss a beat,” even with the weather interference, Javois said.
There were fewer participants and spectators this year. CDC and Health Department requirements were adhered to strictly, and the crowd was limited to 500 people rather than the usual 1,000. People showed proof of being fully vaccinated or a negative COVID test, taken within four days of the event, at the entrance booth. Unfortunately, several people were turned away because they didn’t have test results.