Relay For Life celebrates 25th anniversary

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North Attleboro - Plainville Rotary Club is seeking out this year's Rotary Club distinguished Service Awards Recipients

The Relay for Life of Greater Attleboro, a team fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will celebrate its 25th anniversary from 5 p.m. Friday, June 9, through 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 10, at Norton High School.

The event will be the first full relay held at Norton High School since before the pandemic. A drive-thru relay was held there in 2021 because of pandemic restrictions and last year’s relay took place at Norton Middle School, due to the construction of the high school’s turf field.

The Greater Attleboro relay has raised more than $4.5 million since first being held in 1999 at North Attleborough High School. This was the relay’s home until construction of the turf field led to the move to Norton in 2018.

This year’s relay has raised about $30,000 toward its $80,000 goal. To date, there are 21 teams, 121 participants and close to 30 survivors registered.

The relay will consist of an opening ceremony, a salute to cancer survivors, the lighting of luminaries in honor of survivors and in memory of cancer victims, along with entertainment and other activities.

The silver anniversary event is especially meaningful to the longtime chair of the local organizing committee, Barbara Benoit.

“I have been involved in this relay for 24 years and still have a team (Carol & Margie’s Marchers) in memory of my mother,” she said. “I feel strongly that we still have more to do until no one has to hear the words, ‘you have cancer.’ Our relay teams walk in honor of our survivors and in memory of loved ones, and help raise money to make a difference.”

The opening ceremony at 6 p.m. will feature two speakers:

Jonathan Gardner, 20, of East Bridgewater, will speak about his cancer journey. He’s a survivor who has battled Ewing sarcoma after being diagnosed at the height of the pandemic. On the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism website, Gardner is described as “a self-advocate, decision-maker who happens to have autism, with a vision of helping others any way he can.”

His mother Nancy said that her son “since the age of 13, has had a vision of helping others anyway he can. Cancer did not stop him from fulfilling his vision. He wants to share his story and strategies to provide hope and encouragement to others through their journey of life.”

Gardner is an ambassador for Operation House Call through the Arc of Massachusetts and is a member of the Massachusetts Developmental Disability Council. He’s also released YouTube videos in which he discusses his experience as a way of helping other cancer survivors.

Kevin Poirier, the former longtime state representative from North Attleborough, will speak about how cancer has affected his family. His appearance brings the relay full circle, as Poirier was the guest speaker at the first relay, when he spoke about losing his brother to prostate cancer.

“They are heroes,” Poirier said of cancer survivors in his remarks in 1999.

The opening ceremony will be followed by the traditional first lap led by cancer survivors and the annual survivors’ dinner, which will be organized by Waters Church of North Attleborough and will be served in the Norton High School cafeteria.

One of the relay’s highlights will be the auctioning off of some of the luminaries created by more than a dozen artists during the “Creating Awareness” exhibition at the Attleboro Arts Museum during February’s Winter Night Festival.

A silent auction will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. The winning bidders can display their luminaries around the track and they may take them home. Some of the artists are expected to attend.

This year’s relay also will include:
*Palagi’s ice cream truck at 7 p.m. Friday.
* Exercises led by Sturdy Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Steps at 7 p.m.
* Music by DJ Joshua Brown of Purple Wave Entertainment.
* The luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m., followed by a silent lap led by a bagpiper.
* A movie will be shown at night, and fundraisers will be ongoing at many campsites.
* Breakfast will be served by Team Ladybugs for a nominal fee from 6 to 8 a.m. Saturday at the concession stand. Proceeds will be donated to the relay.
* The closing ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The relay draws people from many Attleboro-area communities, but interested people from any community may attend. To form or join a team, go to: www.relayforlife.org/greaterattleboroma. To volunteer, contact Jakob Carlson at jakobmcarlson@gmail.com.