Every year, from April through September, thousands of walkers across the region dedicate themselves to fighting cancer by participating in the all-night walk-a-thon fundraising event, Relay For Life. In Middletown, the event is a big celebration of survivorship with more than 700 people participating.
UPDATE-Due to the possibility of inclement weather Friday night, Relay for Life has been rescheduled for Saturday night. However, Saturday morning's 5K and Kiddie Track Run will still take place as scheduled. Registration for the run begins at 7 a.m. and the race will start at 8:15 a.m.
Teams may begin arriving at noon on Saturday to set up campsites. The rest of the schedule will remain the same. Opening ceremonies will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the survivors taking the first lap at 7 p.m. The Luminaria Ceremony will be at 9 p.m.
---Every year, from April through September, thousands of walkers across the region dedicate themselves to fighting cancer by participating in an all-night walk-a-thon fundraising event. Participants camp overnight at a local school, park or fairground, taking turns walking or running a track or path.
In Middletown, the event is a large-scale community effort, featuring more than 700 participants who all have a singular goal: eradicating cancer.
"It's about a community taking up the fight against cancer," said American Cancer Society Staff Partner for the Middletown event Stephanie Feyler. "It's a time for us to celebrate survivors, remember those we have lost and continue to fight back against the disease so that we can save more lives."
Relay volunteer and publicity/marketing chairperson Vicky Kendall agreed, adding that the Middletown event is special. She got involved in 1998 and has been a team member, a team captain and on the committee.
"It's an amazing experience that has become a part of me," said Kendall. "Each year I look forward to watching how the event comes to together."
This year, the opening ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. and the public is, as always, invited to attend. Actual cancer survivors take the first lap around the track at 7p.m. and from that point on, teams will strive to keep at least one member on the track at all times.
One of the most moving moments of the event, the Luminaria Ceremony, will begin at 9 p.m. Hundreds of luminaria candles, dedicated to loved ones, will be placed in the bottom of a paper bag, lit, and left to line the track for the duration of the night, symbolizing the hope and perseverance required for the fight against cancer.
"The luminaria ceremony is very moving," said Kendall. "It's at dusk. The track lights go down. Music is played and the names on the luminaria bags are read aloud. There are hundreds of bags. When you look across the field at them, you realize each luminaria is in honor or memory of someone. Each one has a name and story."
And, because the event winds its way through the sleepiest parts of the night, planned themes and activities aim to keep participants spirits and eyelids up. Every 30 minutes, there's something new: a dance party, a scavenger hunt, a pajama parade lap, a pizza party and one of the most popular themes, the bedazzled bras and boxers lap. Beginning at 1 a.m., teams will start dressing up for laps each hour. Each half hour will then include even zanier activities like a frozen t-shirt contest and a pie-eating contest.
As night fades to morning, though, people are sometimes running on empty.
"I've never had any trouble making it through the night but from 5 to 6 a.m., it's rough," said Kendall. "That's when we need a caffeine run . Coffee is available all night but by 6.am. we usually want a special treat and send someone to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts."
The morning also includes breakfast. This year, it will also include the 5th Annual Race to Find a Cure 5K Run/Walk and the Kiddie Track Run.
Feyler added that the whole event is a fun-filled family extravaganza and that people should show up ready to have fun.
"But, don't forget the essentials," said Feyler. "You'll need a tent, a chair, comfortable shoes, snacks, water and all the things you would need for a good overnight expeience."
A variety of relay gear and lots of goodies will be available for sale at the Relay Store in the Registration Tent. New this year are relay koozies. Short and long-sleeve t-shirts in a variety of colors featuring this year's theme of "Lights, Camera, Relay" will also be on sale.
Food and concessions will be set up similar to a food court. Fresh off of their "Best in Delaware" showing at the Delaware BBQ Cookoff, Pigheaded BBQ will be on site with some of their award-winning options. Dog Town will also be serving up several of its popular hot dog options. There will also be concession food like Italian sausage, cheesesteak sandwiches, fries, funnel cake and lemonade as well as Bruster's Ice Cream. Some of the vendors will only be available from 4 to 11 p.m., Friday night. The concession stand will be open all night, though, with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, snacks and some breakfast items.