Relay For Life returns to full event for the first time in three years

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The Relay For Life of Greater Attleboro will return to a full event for the first time in three years when it holds its 24th annual team fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society on June 17-18 at the Norton Middle School.

It will be the first relay featuring teams camping out overnight since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The relay will be held at the middle school instead of the high school this year due to the construction of a new turf field there.

With the state still mainly locked down and large gatherings banned in 2020, the relay was limited to a virtual event and a small one held in August outside of the Attleboro Arts Museum.

Last year, with vaccinations available, two smaller in-person events were held in June: a drive-thru relay at Norton High School and the first Slam Cancer poetry-essay event at Balfour Riverwalk Park in Attleboro held in partnership with the Attleboro Public Library.

Organizers, Relay Chairwoman Barbara Benoit said, are thrilled to be returning to a full event.

“I’m very excited to be back to an overnight relay this year,” she said. “The past two years have been a challenge due to COVID-19. I have talked to many of our relay teams, and they are happy to be back to an in-person event with their team members.”

This year’s relay will begin with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday, June 17, followed by a survivors’ lap and a dinner for survivors and their caregivers being provided by Waters Church of North Attleborough.

The opening ceremony will include a presentation by one of the local poets who participated in this year’s second annual Slam Cancer event. Tara Lines of Wrentham, who battled childhood leukemia, will share her inspiring story of survival, and read her poem titled, “Oh Cancer, You Tried!,” which she first presented at Slam Cancer in May.

Due to the event being held at the middle school, walkers will be doing laps around the ballfield there instead of a track, but there will still be luminaries—candles dedicated to both cancer victims and survivors— lining part of the field.

The luminaries, which will be lit with glow sticks, will be anchored with about 2,000 canned goods, thanks to a drive organized by Sensata Technologies of Attleboro. The cans, as the relay has done in past years, will be donated to three area food pantries after the event.

The luminaria ceremony will be held at 9 p.m., and will feature both bagpiper Donna Lucas of the Colonial Pipers Bagpipe Band, as well as remarks from another Slam Cancer poet, Allan Fournier of North Attleborough. He’s planning to read “Unfinished Business: Overtime,” an original poem that invokes the indomitable spirit that’s personified by cancer survivors.

The relay will include music by Attleboro disc jockey Nate Adams, a dance party led by Adams, late-night bingo hosted by Team Wings of Hope, an overnight scavenger hunt, breakfast at 6 a.m. hosted by Team Ladybugs and many other activities. In addition, many teams will be selling raffles, food and beverages, with the proceeds going to the cancer society.

The relay will conclude Saturday morning, June 18, following a closing ceremony, which will start at about 9 a.m.

The public is invited to attend, whether they’re registered for the event or not. The middle school is located across from St. Mary’s Church on Route 123 in Norton.

The relay, as of this writing, is closing in on raising $50,000, with a goal of raising $100,000, and includes about 130 participants and nearly 30 teams.

The Greater Attleboro relay draws teams and participants from most area communities, including Attleboro, North Attleborough, Mansfield, Norton, Plainville, Rehoboth, Seekonk and Wrentham. If you’d like to form or join a team or volunteer for the relay, go to: