May 11, 2012
Teens gung-ho for Relay for Life
Kaylee Marshall goes through a range of feelings at the Cortland Relay for Life every year.
“As a cancer survivor, it’s really fun and sometimes emotional. Sometimes I get choked up, to see all the people, to see my name on the bag, to see my parents and the look on their faces. It’s bitter sweet but I love it. I look forward to it every year,” she said.
Kaylee and Carli Korik, both 17 and 11th-graders who live in Cortland, are co-captains of “Hope Floats,” a team that will be taking to the track at this year’s Cortland Relay for Life, set for 6 p.m. June 1 at SUNY Cortland’s Davis Field.
The overnight relay brings teams together who have been fundraising for the American Cancer Society for several months, if not all year long. The idea is to have one person from a team on the track at all times, to symbolize how cancer never sleeps, nor does the fight to end the illness ever stop.
A highlight of the event is the luminaria ceremony, where candles line the track, each in honor or in memory of a person touched by cancer. To see the lights and their significance is humbling. Also, the event is kicked off by cancer survivors, typically wearing purple T-shirts, who walk the first lap of the night. To see the number of friends and neighbors who have dealt with the illness is a revelation.
This year’s relay is looking at 50 teams and as of Thursday, 524 participants have raised $52,000 for the American Cancer Society.
“This year, there’s so much excitement about the relay,” said Tammy MacMyne, staff partner from the ACS who works with the Cortland County relay. “I am so moved by how much the relay volunteers do for their community,” she said.
The goal this year, set by the local planning committee, is $160,000, she said. This year’s relay has three chairmen: Kelly Skinner, Amanda Gulini and Tricia Morehouse.
“All the money raised in the community benefits the community through various programs and research and development,” said MacMyne. She noted the ACS has devoted $102 million in research and development throughout New York and New Jersey alone. And at Cornell University, four research grants are in the process that total almost $1.2 million, she said.
Kaylee is looking at her third year as a team captain at the event. She’s been attending Relay for Life events since she was 9. “This is my third year in the relay,” said Carli, who is serving her first year as a captain.
“We love to do it,” said Carli. “We love to be involved any way we can, to be helping the American Cancer Society any way we can.”
“When I was a baby, I was diagnosed with neuro-blastoma,” said Kaylee of the childhood cancer. She doesn’t remember too much about the tumor that grew on her spine. “It’s a tumor of the peripheral nervous tissue,” said Carli, who’s boned up on childhood cancers. She wants to be a pharmacist at St. Jude’s Hospital.
Kaylee said she went through several months of treatment and is fully recovered.
“I used to have monthly checkups at Upstate Hospital in Syracuse. Now I go every two years. It’s been good so far,” she said. “I remember very little. It’s weird. ... But my parents said it was a hard time. I was always a sick baby,” she said.
Carli said her uncle, in his 30s, was diagnosed with melanoma a year ago and her 82-year-old grandmother suffered from cancer of the bladder. Both have recovered.
Their team of 10 people, all students, have raised nearly $1,000 and the girls were so excited to get a large donation, $500, from Jeff Halsey of Legend Events, which hosts dance parties for teenagers in Central New York. The girls attended one at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex last month and said it was a blast. Halsey staged a purple-themed dance at the complex, in honor of the ACS relay, which uses purple as its symbolic color of hope.
“It was amazing,” said Kaylee. “It was pretty cool. We couldn’t thank him enough. Most of our fundraisers are bracelets and rootbeer floats. To have a corporate company give us a check for $500 — it was crazy.”
The girls also make it a habit to go door to door in their neighborhood seeking donations and are becoming famous for their rootbeer floats. They make gorgeous woven bracelets and sell them. An aunt who sells MaryKay cosmetics donated a portion of proceeds as well. They also cash in on bottle returns.
Carli said the event has taught her not to take life for granted. She said people at the relay may be wishing they or their loved ones have their health, or just another day.
“They don’t wish for expensive things, a lot of material things. All they want is to be better. Healthy people, all they want is material things,” she said.
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