By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — Each year, the American Cancer Society convenes one of its biggest parties locally in the confines of the Lewiston community.
Celebrating its 16th year in the community, the party, known as the Relay for Life Lewiston-Niagara, brings together hundreds of cancer survivors, caretakers, families, friends and community members who all want to see the nation's deadliest disease eradicated as quickly as possible.
This year's no different, according to Tami Gabri, director of special events at the society's local chapter.
"It's kind of a carnival-like atmosphere," she said. "Our teams have fundraisers at their camp sites, there's bands on stage, there are activities going on all over the place. There's a food tent, we have an auction tent."
Unlike last year's rendition, this Relay is going back to the society's standard when it convenes at 3 p.m. Saturday. After a brief respite from going overnight, an effort to bring more neighbors to the party, organizers felt revisiting the original intention of the Relay for Life was in order.
So participating teams will once again walk a set path to show they, too, can persevere throughout a long ordeal. It's symbolism, Gabri said, for the struggles cancer patients go through from diagnosis until a conclusion.
"There's support on both sides (for the time change)," she said. "(Overnight) is the national standard of a relay event, though. Just like how cancer never sleeps, neither will we. This symbolizes the cancer journey. We're fighting back throughout both day and night."
Another change will be the event's location, no longer at the Lewiston-Porter School District's track. Instead, Reservoir State Park on Witmer Road in Lewiston will host the event.
With the change of time and location, organizers also decided to move the hour of the annual survivor's dinner. This year, it's the survivor's lunch, kicking off at 2 p.m. before the relay officially kicks off with its opening ceremony at 3 p.m.
In addition, there's also a caregiver ceremony recognizing the people responsible for overseeing the treatment and well-being of cancer patients, no matter what level of sick they may be. Together, these patients and care personnel, usually husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, friends or children, struggle with these sometimes-radical changes to their lives, which not only affect themselves but others around them.
Relay, therefore, becomes a way to handle tough obstacles for some, through bonding moments for everyone, Gabri said.
"If you're a cancer survivor, come out," she said. "This year, our survivor luncheon is going on before our opening ceremonies. It's designed as a way for survivors ... and our caregivers to come and bond with other people who've been through a like experience."
Beyond this, the event also serves as one of the largest fundraisers the society hosts in the area. So far, teams have raised almost $18,000 this year, according to the Relay event webpage.
For more information on the event, call the American Cancer Society at 689-6981.Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.