Relay For Life Organized By Huntington H.S. Students

Filed under: Huntington Union Free School District,News |

The war on cancer is real. Relay For Life is one way to engage in the fight. Huntington High School students have joined the army battling the dreaded disease and taken a lead role in the struggle by organizing a sprawling extravaganza that kicks off late Saturday afternoon at Blue Devil Stadium and continues overnight before wrapping up early Sunday morning.

What began as an initiative of Huntington High School’s National Honor Society chapter has grown to include much of the general student body. Entering this week, Huntington’s Relay For Life is the second largest high school Relay in the state with about 560 participants on 60 teams. Students, alumni and staff members have raised more than $86,000 so far for the American Cancer Society.

Registration will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon with opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Participants will gather near the track and take turns walking or running laps between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. in moonlight or rain. When they aren’t circling the oval, the teenagers will be sleeping, reading or socializing. Entertainment will be provided for off-track time to keep spirits high. Why the overnight schedule? Organizers say it’s because “cancer never sleeps.” Closing ceremonies are set for Sunday at 5:30 a.m.

Huntington’s Relay For Life event is the first such high school event in Suffolk, as opposed to one opened to other high schools to join in. It’s also the first completely student run Relay event in the county.

The event is being co-chaired by seniors Marie Clifford (National Honor Society president), Alexandra Martinolich (Key Club president) and Joseph Straub (NHS vice-president), who is also the initiative’s online coordinator.

“The Relay For Life has for many years been a large part of the National Honor Society, with it being our biggest event, so this year we decided to bring it to Huntington,” said Huntington senior Marie Clifford, who is president of the school’s NHS chapter. “Planning this event has been a reward in itself. Not only has our school come together to support this cause, but students have also been able to share their stories and support one another. I am amazed with all that we have done so far and am extremely excited for this event to take place.”

Brielle Blatt and Samantha Palmer are co-chairing the activities line-up for participants. Chairs for other aspects of the Relay include Justin LoScalzo (logistics), Natalie Acton (sponsorship), Nikki Smoot (survivorship), Holly Blakely (team development), Lauren Boyce (raffles) and Gabe Goldman (development and community outreach).

Additional organizing committee members include Nitika Shah, Lizzy Saltman, Kristin Hartman, Michelle Rosenbauer and Brittany Oliva. Science teacher Joseph Cohen, who serves as the National Honor Society’s faculty advisor, has been involved in planning the huge event. Committee members have also closely collaborated with Alyssa Knudsen, the American Cancer Society’s staff partner assigned to Huntington’s Relay For Life.

“Relay For Life is the signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society,” Ms. Knudsen said. “People gather to celebrate the lives of those who have beaten cancer, remember those we have lost and to pledge to fight back against this disease. With 21 events in Suffolk County, the Relay For Life at Huntington High School is the only one that is completely run by students. This school has come together to show that you can make a difference in the fight against cancer regardless of how old you are. It has been amazing to watch the event unfold in the last few months. I have no doubt that June 9th is going to be an incredible night.

Organizers said that over 35 cancer survivors have confirmed their attendance at the survivor’s reception dinner slated for Saturday at 5 p.m. in a tent situated on the grass soccer field. Caregivers will be present at the dinner, too.

Vendors and other on-site coordinators are confirmed for the overnight event. There will be several fundraising initiatives throughout “tent city,” as well as many raffles generously donated by local Huntington businesses.

“Relay is a truly magical event,” Mr. Straub said. “It is fantastic to see such a large community come together to fight cancer and support those affected by it. I am honored to be a part of the planning process for Relay and I hope everyone comes out to enjoy such a fantastic cause!”

Saturday evening will be highlighted by the luminaria ceremony. After the sun goes down, the Huntington track will be lined with small paper lanterns to honor both cancer survivors and those who have succumbed to the insidious disease. The candles will be allowed to burn throughout the night as a remembrance.

Spirit days are being held throughout the week at Huntington High School, culminating with Purple-Out Day on Friday. There is still plenty of time to donate by logging on to www.relayforlife.org/huntingtonhighschoolny. The website will be updated daily throughout the week. Event reminders will be tweeted from the Huntington Relay Twitter account, @HHSRelay4Life12.

Monies raised at the event will be contributed to the American Cancer Society to support “cutting-edge cancer research, early detection and prevention education, advocacy efforts and life-affirming patient services,” according to the group. More than 3.5 million people across the world participate in Relay For Life events.

What began as a Huntington High School National Honor Society initiative and expanded to students outside the society might just become a standing club in the future. Time will tell.

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