Relay for Life volunteer recognized for years of service

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Larry Kessler of North Attleborough received the Sandra C. Labaree Award for his 20 year of volunteer work with the Greater Attleboro Relay for Life. Courtesy photo

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

For his more than 20 years of working with Greater Attleboro Relay for Life, Larry Kessler has received the Sandra C. Labaree Volunteer Values Award from the American Cancer Society.

The award is the most honored accolade by the Society in New England, and recognizes Kessler’s support of the mission to lead the fight for a world without cancer. The Sandra C. Labaree Volunteer Values Award is named in honor of the late Sandra C. Labaree, a longtime American Cancer Society volunteer from Maine. Each year, the local area board selects the most inspired and passionate individuals to receive this prestigious honor whose service best exemplifies the Society’s organizational values of mission, stewardship, diversity, data-driven, and respect. Kessler received the award last June.


“For years, everyone knew Larry, even if not by name,” said Brittney Toth, senior development manager, American Cancer Society. “While Larry knew his donations would be affected by the pandemic, he turned to local newspapers to encourage others to support us and stressed we needed their help more than ever, because cancer won’t wait for a pandemic. He wanted everyone to know the Society was still here to help everyone. He did not let anyone forget about our lifesaving mission and continues to share it in every article he puts out. He is always motivated to do more for the Relay For Life event and the American Cancer Society, and he continues to grow and deepen our connections to the community.”

Kessler, of North Attleborough, had been covering the Greater Attleboro Relay for years as a journalist as well as being part of a fundraising team. He said that like so many others, he’s had friends and family who have battled cancer. After retiring, he joined the Relay’s committee, and remains there today.

We’ve had either survivors or lost people to cancer over the years,” said Kessler.

Kessler describes the event as very inspiring, and that he still gets goosebumps when he sees the lighting of the Luminaria, when candles are lit in honor of those lost to cancer.

It always moves you,” he said. “It moves you spirit, moves you as a human being and knowing that the people who meant a lot to people are being remembered.”

Like many events in 2020, the Relays had to shift to a virtual format, calling the new fundraiser Hope From Home. Hope from Home was conducted in coordination with counterparts in Maine and New Hampshire, and raised a total of $61,487. It incorporated many of the themes that the June relays would have had, including Luminaira lit for cancer survivors or cancer victims and opening and closing ceremonies.

In 2020, Relay held the Luminaria on the Lawn held outside of the downtown Attleboro Arts Center. A drive-thru Relay and walk on the track at Norton High School was held along with Slam Cancer, a poetry-essay event that inspired people to open up about how cancer has touched them and demonstrate that every cancer diagnosis affects many people, from patients and survivors to caregivers and family members.

In 2022, the Relay is expected to return in a more normal format, said Kessler, and the plan is to hold the event June 10 and 11 at Norton Middle School. He said morale was impacted by all the changes, and though fundraising was down last year, people continued on.

People are very much inspired by and dedicated to doing this,” he said.

It’s expected that the Greater Attleboro Relay could see up to 700 participants. Kessler said there are a number of familiar faces from as far back as 15 years as well as several new teams each year. Kessler considers the award one for the entire team behind the Relay for Life, describing his fellow volunteers as dedicated and open to new ideas.

No one person can do anything themselves,” he said. “I accepted the award on behalf of the team.”